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Catholic family suffers arson attack in Pakistan, police join harassment

.- A Catholic family in a Pakistani village has suffered from threats by Muslim neighbors, culminating in their house being burned to the ground.

According to the Vatican-based Fides news agency, the family of Walayat Masih from the village of Shadokey near Lahore had been threatened repeatedly by Muslim neighbors who insisted the family convert to Islam or leave the area.

Wayalat had refused to sell his home that bordered his Muslim neighbors because he had inherited the property from his ancestors. Following the alleged threats, the Masih family home was reportedly burned to the ground on Jan. 26, leaving Walayat's wife and four children homeless.

Fides reported that although the family sought to register the complaint, the local police not only refused to do so but further harassed the family.

“It is a very serious act of intimidation,” said Xavier Williams, vice president of “Life for All,” a NGO which seeks to ensure human rights for Christians in Pakistan. “It is yet another case of patent injustice against Christian citizens,” Williams told Fides on Monday. “The institutions and the police should protect and uphold the law, instead of being accomplices in lawlessness.”

“It seems that local authorities support or deny these blatant violations of personal rights,” he added.

According to Fides, “Life for All” has helped relocate the family to Rawalpindi, providing personal care for them. The organization has also enlisted the help of a lawyer and filed a lawsuit in the Rawalpindi High Court against the Shadokey police for negligence. Judges are currently investigating the allegations and have summoned the leaders of the Shadokey police station.

Fides remarked in its Monday article that the inaction of the police in this situation is reminiscent of a recent case where a 12 year old Catholic girl was allegedly raped and killed by a wealthy Muslim lawyer in Lahore last month. It was reported by local Christian leaders that the police only responded to the allegations after angry protests from Christians as well as some Muslims.

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