A Pakistani church was set on fire for allegedly loud worship and sound system irritating the local Muslims in the vicinity. The affected church Gulberg Presbyterian Church in Lahore’s Makkah Colony was damaged in part. The incident unfolded on Thursday, November 16, 2023, early in the morning. Prior to the incident, a threatening letter from a religious outfit left a letter at the main gate of the church threatening dire consequences, if the sound volume was not reduced during the Sunday worship meetings.
While remarking about the incident, Rev. Samuel Massey Gulberg of the Presbyterian Church said that neighbouring Muslims had complained that the worship sound system was too loud. On November 16, a church elder named Zubair opened the church in the morning at 9:30 a.m. after 20 minutes he left to see a nearby carpenter. He said that while the elder was with the carpenter, the elder was informed that someone had set the church on fire. The fire destroyed the church altar, a cupboard containing Bibles and other Christian literature, two air conditioning units, and furniture, along with other items.
Rev. Massey said, “The fire was not accidental, nor had it erupted due to a short circuit. We suspect that someone entered the church when elder Zubair went to meet the carpenter. The intruders locked the main gate from the outside after committing the crime, and passers by and neighbours had to break open the padlock when they saw smoke billowing out of the church building.”
Makkah Colony is a residential neighbourhood in Lahore. Muslims and Christians live alongside each other in the colony. There has never been any unpleasant incident reported in the area previously. “Both communities live in harmony and respect each other’s faiths,” Rev. Massey further added. “However, two years ago, a Muslim family that had moved into a nearby house filed a police complaint against the church to stop using the sound system during worship. I told the police that we used the sound system for two hours only on Friday and Sunday, and that we would make sure that our neighbours do not get disturbed by it.”
It was revealed that the letter was received on October 14. “The letter also mentioned the police complaint that was filed two years ago and stated that the matter had ‘now been brought to their notice’ because we had not adhered to the earlier warnings,” Pastor Massey said, adding that it gave the church 30 days to comply with the demand.
Rev. Samuel Massey detailed that he did not report the incident at the local police station because he said he did not want to cause fear or unrest in the local community. “The situation is already tense after the Jaranwala incident and the issue of the staged assassination case of Pastor Eleazar Sidhu,” Rev. Massey said. “In these circumstances, I thought it was better not to disclose this threat and instead try to minimize the noise from our church.”