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By ICC's Pakistan Correspondent,
International Christian Concern
A mob ransacked a Christian neighborhood in Lahore last month, May 24, after news spread of a Christian that had allegedly committed blasphemy against Islam. This latest incident involving Pakistan's notorious blasphemy lawsis just another example of the widespread abuse of these laws. Unfortunately, it is also an example of the communal violence the blasphemy laws have become synonymous with when a Christian is the accused. Humayun Masih, a Pakistani Christian from the Sanda - Dhoop Sari area of Lahore, was charged under Section 295-B of Pakistan's Penal Code which makes illegal the desecration of the Quran. The situation in Sanda escalated when a mob of armed Muslims, led by the local clerics, attacked Christian homes in Sanda and attempted to set Saint Joseph Church on fire. Fortunately, according to local Christians, authorities were able control the situation and did not allow the mob to cause extensive damage to the church or the structure of the Christians' homes.
Another Christian Accused of Blasphemy
Ashraf Gill, a social activist from Sanda, told International Christian Concern (ICC) that, "Humayun is a mentally unstable person and has been at [an] insane asylum for about the last six months. He is [an] addict of narcotics and therefore most of time was found in the streets."
On the day of the incident, Masih was witnessed wandering in the street when a person alleged he saw him burning pages of a newspaper that carried Quranic verses. Immediately, local Muslims apprehended Masih, brutally beat him, and handed over him to local police.
According to a local source, police officials tried to disregard the blasphemy claim and release Masih, but a group of Islamic religious leaders told the police to register a case against the Christian or they would burn him alive. As a result, Masih was kept in police custody and a blasphemy accusation was registered against him.
Christian Neighborhood Ransacked
While Masih was still in police custody, a Muslim mob gathered in Sanda, ransacked Christian homes, and attempted to burn down a local church. The mob chanted anti-Christian slogans as they damaged the doors and windows of Christian homes. The mob also reportedly looted whatever they could carry from the Christian homes while damaging the items they could not take with them. When local police finally took control of the situation, approximately 20 to 25 Christian homes were damaged or looted.
There are about 300 Christian families living in the Sanda area. When news of the blasphemy accusation spread, many fled their homes fearing an attack on the entire community. According to another local source, many Christian families have yet to return to their homes due to safety and security concerns.
Pakistan's Christians and other religious minorities are disproportionately accused and convicted under Pakistan's blasphemy laws. Often accusations against Christians lead to spats of communal violence. As recently noted by Archbishop Sebastian Francis Shaw in an interview with Aid to the Church in Need, "When a Muslim is accused of blasphemy, it is just that individual who pays the consequences. But if a Christian is accused, the entire Christian community is held responsible."
For interviews, contact William Stark, Regional Manager for South Asia: RM-SAsia@persecution.org
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