A church building was set on fire in Lahore, Pakistan, on Thursday, a month after the pastor received a letter threatening the congregation for worshiping too loudly, sources said.
The blaze destroyed the church altar, a cupboard containing Bibles and other Christian books, two air conditioning units and furniture, among other items, said the Rev. Samuel Massey of Gulberg Presbyterian Church in Lahore.
Efforts were underway to make the building for the church of 60 families soundproof for Christmas celebrations, as area Muslims had complained that the worship sound system was too loud. A church elder opened the church building at 9:30 a.m. on Nov. 16, and 20 minutes after he left to meet a nearby carpenter, he learned that someone had set the structure on fire, Pastor Massey said.
“The fire was not accidental, nor had it erupted due to a short circuit,” the pastor told Morning Star News. “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 passersby and neighbors had to break open the padlock when they saw smoke billowing out of the church building.”
Thousands of Christians live alongside Muslims near the church building in Makkah Colony, and no churches were targeted in the area previously, he said.
“Both communities live in harmony and respect each other’s faiths,” Pastor Massey said. “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 will make sure that our neighbors do not get disturbed by it.”
The church soon stopped its Friday worship meetings to avoid religious conflict, he said. But last month an Islamic group left a letter dated Oct. 14 by the main gate threatening the church with serious consequences if it did not comply with their order to reduce the sound system volume of the Sunday worship service, he said.