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Pakistan: Christians in fear after blasphemy allegations
07 June 2016
Christians in Pakistan are living in fear after 'multiple incidents' of blasphemy accusations. According to Open Doors sources, Christians in Sheikhapura, a small settlement next to Lahore, are, 'too afraid to speak'. Several Christian families fled the area after one of their relatives was accused of sending a blasphemous message on Facebook. The accused man - 30-year-old Usman Masih - actually abandoned Christianity some years ago, but his Christian relatives were deemed 'guilty by association'.
"Their landlords told them to leave the village, or they would face dire consequences," explained Masih's cousin, Waris. "At least 10 Christian families have locked their houses and gone to their relatives for an unspecified time."
"There are communal fights all the time here in our town," said a contact. "We are constantly threatened with the blasphemy law."
Faith and courage
Pakistan's blasphemy laws are routinely used as a means of settling old scores. Dozens of Pakistanis have been murdered and many Christian settlements attacked. The most notorious case remains that of Asia Bibi, who was arrested in 2009 and still remains in jail.
In the face of these attacks Christians are showing courage and faith. Sonia Gill, 23, was accused by a neighbour of blasphemy through using an advertising banner bearing the name of Prophet Muhammad as a floor covering. An angry mob of about 70 people gathered outside her house, in the 'Christian Town' settlement near Gujrat.
Bravely, Sonia refused to leave her home.
"If I flee, what would happen to my Christian neighbours and their houses?" she said. "Whatever they want to do, they should do it to me and not to others."
When the police eventually arrived, they examined the banners and found nothing blasphemous. However the situation remained tense the following morning.
"Christian girls who returned from school told us that they heard in the street that a protest would again be taken out," Sonia Gill explained. "Several Christians and Muslims suggested that I should flee the place, but I said that if I did, angry protestors would harm other Christians and their property. Whatever they want to do, they should do it to me and not to others."
Protection for minorities
Thankfully, justice prevailed and the case was dropped. But it came to the attention of Punjab parliamentarian Mary Gill, who travelled to meet Sonia and other local Christians. At least 150 Christian families live in Christian Town, which has three churches.
She has proposed the establishment of a quick response unit to protect minorities such as Christians.
"I suggested establishing a minorities' protection cell," she said, "where quick information about such incidents could be provided and law-enforcement agencies could be mobilised to deal with such situations. I am happy that the cabinet meeting decided on establishing a cell that could deal with such untoward situations."
Source: Open Doors; World Watch Monitor
- For safety and protection for Pakistan's Christians.
- For calm in Sheikhapura and for protection for Open Doors partners who run literacy projects in the area.
- For the establishment and effectiveness of the minorities protection cell.
More News from Pakistan:
- Christian sewage worker dies after doctors on Ramadan fast refuse to touch him
- Infamous blasphemy law to be reviewed by Human Rights Committee
- Christian man accused of blasphemy after torn Quran found
- Five sentenced to death for murdering couple who were 'burned alive'
- Asia Bibi's hearing delayed
Find out more about persecution in Pakistan.