Four Arrested in Pakistan for Easter Shootings

Local police have arrested four men in connection with an attack against a Church near Lahore, Pakistan on Easter Sunday, a news agency reported this weekend.

Although only two of the men were arrested on the day of the incident, all four are now in custody, according to Italy-based AsiaNews.

On Sunday, Mar. 27, four armed assailants opened fire on Pakistan's New Apostolic Church in the village of Khambay near Lahore, killing one Christian worshipper and injuring six others, persecution watchdog groups reported following the shooting.

The attack, which was reported on immediately by International Christian Concern (ICC) and the Voice of the Martyrs (VOM), took place around 10 a.m. during an Easter morning service.

One of the victims, Arshad (or Irshad) Masih, was reportedly shot and killed as he went outside of the church building to find out what was happening. Six other believers also came out from church and were fired upon. The attackers fled, following the shooting.

Pervaz Jamal, a Lahore Catholic, filed a complaint with the local police station. “On the same day that we heard about the incident, I rushed to the place to help the people. Local Christians were too frightened to go to the police station [to report the incident],” he told AsiaNews.

According to AsiaNews, locals were eager to point out that relations between Christians and Muslims have always been good overall, and that the police were able to stop some of the suspects thanks to the cooperation of the Muslim community.

Despite earlier beliefs that the believers were targets of the attack because of their faith, AsiaNews stated that “the attack does not seem to be religiously motivated.”

“Land seems to be at its root,” AsiaNews reported. “With urban sprawl around Lahore gobbling up rural villages, the value of land is going up.”

VOM reported that the incident came after a weekend of threats and intimidations by neighboring family against the congregation. According to the persecution watchdog group, the 150-member church was forced to cancel their Good Friday and Saturday night services when the family threatened to kill anyone who came to the church. The neighbors were reportedly seeking to take possession of the land that New Apostolic Church and its graveyard has been located on for the last century.

However, according to an account by the ICC, the Christian community targeted in the attack rebuffed pressure from its neighbors to give up land, which had risen significantly in value.