Saturday, 08 August 2009
Please pray for the Christian in rural areas of Pakistan because they are not safe.
[Christian friend in Lahore]"
On this occasion, it may have been Sipah-e-Sahaba fundamentalists who carried out attacks on Christians on false charges of blasphemy, but in the past ordinary students and citizens have been in mobs which burnt down the property of minorities.
The State of Pakistan's involvement in illegalising and punishing blasphemy has created a chauvanistic space for Muslims to persecute minorities. Half of the citizens arrested for blasphemy are of religious minorities, though they make up 3% of the population. Pakistan's blasphemy laws can be invoked by a single witness. "Once a person is charged with blasphemy, he is considered condemned even if he is acquitted," says the wife of a Christian whose name was cleared.
Of 647 people arrested and detained on charges of blasphemy between 1988-2005, 20 were murdered, according to the Justice and Peace Commission of the Conference of Catholic Bishops of Pakistan. The space for persecution must now be shut. Arsons and murder are unacceptable, and transgressors must not feel that the State endorses their actions. The blasphemy laws must be repealed.- - -
Pakistan Christian Post:
Indian Christian protest at Pakistan High Commission on Muslim militants attack on Gojra Christians
New Delhi: August 7, 2009. (PCP Report) Leaders of the Christian community in India demonstrated at the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi on Friday, 7th August, demanding that the Pakistan government repeal the so called Blasphemy laws and punish those responsible for burning alive of nine Pakistani Christians in violence in recent days.
[ . . . ] The following is the text of the Memorandum submitted to the Pakistan President:
Re: Anguish and protest at the brutal burning alive of Nine Christians and destruction of 200 houses in arson in Pakistan’s Korian and Gojra area in Toba Tek Singh District, and abuse of the so called Anti Blasphemy laws to persecute religious minorities
Greetings from the Christian community and the secular society of the Republic of India.
You know how the people of India have shared your anguish over the deaths of scores of innocents in various Pakistani cities at the hands of religious and political fanatics. India too has been victim of such violence, and we know that the innocent always suffer in the mindlessness of terrorism.
But there is nothing random in violence against religious and other minority communities. Over the years, religious minorities, both Hindu, Sikh and Christian, but particularly Christian, have been targets of brutal violence planned in deeprooted conspiracy and abetted by agencies of State, incouding local police. Such violence reeks of intolerance and the impunity of state agencies smacks of official connivance. We share ties of blood and faith with our sisters and brothers across the border, and have always felt their terror, their pain and their suffering.
But nothing in recent decades since the Partition of the subcontinent exceeds in shocking brutality the events in the Persecution in Village 362, JB, Korian, Gojra, District, Toba Tek Singh on 26th July 2009.
Marauding gangs let loose a frenzy of violence on children, women and men who were in the midst of wedding celebrations in a village called Korian Chak number 362 JB, very close to the small city of sub
Division Gojra, District, Toba Tek Singh. Some children had shredded an old book to make confetti to shower on the newly wedded couple. This was a not a holy book, but apparently a book on Islamic studies.
There was uproar in the village. However, the matter was settled amicably when it became clear that this had been done by children whowere illiterate and there was no intention of desecrating any holy texts.
But hardliners would not want peace. They accused the Christians of blasphemy and desecration, a charge that has now become routine against the community. Around sunset on 30th July a large mob descended on Korian demanding that Taalib Masih (the father of the children) be hanged for blasphemy. Fortunately the Christians had been forewarned and had already fled their homes to safer places. The mob then began its spree of looting and burning the 70 to 80 Christian houses in the village. The two small churches, one Protestant and the other Pentecostal, were ransacked but not burned down. Sharief Masih a disabled who was not able to run away died a day before yesterday as he was in a trauma.
Christians in many surrounding villages and towns began receiving threats as Mullahs (Muslim clerics) began preaching hatred and revenge. On 1st August a large mob moved towards a Christian locality called Christian Town in the centre of Gojra city near railway station. They carried sticks, clubs and even firearms. The small police force’s half-hearted attempt to stop them was ineffective. The Christians tried to resist the mob. The mob besieged the locality and went on a rampage, looting and burning about 100 Christian houses. Police reinforcements arrived by late afternoon, but it was too late - the damage had been done. Till evening bodies were being recovered from the smoking ruins of the houses. The number of injured is not known, but 8 Christians were killed, two of them children.
It was planned to have the funeral of the 7 Christians around noon on Sunday, 2nd August. But when Atif Jamil Pagaan, central convener Pakistan Minorities Democratic Movement, came to know that the police had not yet registered a report against 12 persons whom the Christians had identified and two city officials for criminal negligence, they refused to release the bodies for burial. But the police delayed in registering the report, offered to enter a milder, watered-down version instead. The Christians continue to protest.
The Pakistani civil society and the Christian community have demanded the government repeal the Blasphemy Law that was repeatedly being misused and had now caused the death of nine innocent Christians. Pakistani Christian leaders have urged the government to ensure equal rights and protection for the community.
There are indications that the attack on Korian, as well as on Gojra, was planned and the people instigated by a banned Islamic group. Such extremist Islamic groups want a sort of religious cleansing. What happened in Korian and Gojra was almost a replication of what had happened near Kasur a small city about 40 kilometres from Lahore only a month ago. Similarly, in 2005, in the town of Sangla Hill, Christian houses, two churches, the pastor’s houses, a high school and convent were ransacked and badly damaged. In 1997 a large Christian village called Shantinagar was reduced to ruins. In all these cases the police did almost nothing to stop the rampaging mobs.
The Christian community in India joins with the peace-loving people across the world and supports the demand by Pakistan Civil Society and the Minority communities, specially the Christians, for strong action by Federal and Provincial authorities to bring the guilty to book andto create an environment of peace in which the religious minorities can regain their confidence.
Mr President, you will agree a modern Pakistan can have nothing less. Our good wishes remain with the people of Pakistan of all communities.
Signed by Archbishop Vincent M Concessao on behalf of the Christian community in India.- - -
Pakistani bishops demand repeal of blasphemy laws
August 07, 2009
Bishops in Karachi and Hyderabad are demanding the repeal of the blasphemy laws that encourage the persecution of the nation’s Christians. “This was not the first time that people have been falsely accused of blasphemy,” said Bishop Max John Rodrigues in reference to recent mob violence in Korian and Gorja. Joined by Protestant leaders during an August 5 protest in the southern Pakistani city of Hyderabad, the bishop added, “Discriminatory blasphemy laws are being used against Christians on one pretext or the other-- personal enmity, vested interests or bias without a semblance of truth in the allegations.”- - -
At long last, the Christians get up, stand up
Christian youth turn violent during protest
LAHORE 6 August, 2009: Christians staged a protest on Wednesday against the killing of eight of their community members by a Muslim mob, with some demonstrators smashing the windows of public buses.
Television footage showed dozens of protesters in Lahore climbing onto vehicles and breaking their windows. Pakistan Christian Labour Party Chairman Ijaz Sindhu said some young people who broke away from the main crowd attacked four buses but caused no injuries to fleeing passengers.
A private TV channel reported that Christians staged a violent protest in Youhanabad. The demonstrators demanded the early arrest of those involved in the Gojra carnage.
The channel said angry protesters, armed with sticks, gathered on Ferozepur Road and blocked the main road by burning tyres. The protesters chanted slogans against the government and pelted stones on the passing vehicles. Police were eventually able to pacify the protestors and disperse them from the scene. [ . . . ]- - -
Boston Globe, 6 August 2009:
"A committee ... will discuss the laws detrimental to religious harmony to sort out how they could be improved," Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani told a gathering in Gojra.
He did not specify which ones [ . . . ] Gilani did not give a timeframe for the review [ . . . ]
Christian Science Monitor article on the matter, written by my brother
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