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By ICC's Pakistan Correspondent,
International Christian Concern
Last month, a Christian community in southern Pakistan began receiving deadly threats from local Muslim criminals seeking to seize their church's land. The Jerusalem Church, a Pentecostal church located in Karachi, has been told to give up the land where their church is built or face the danger of being falsely accused of blasphemy in Pakistan.
During the month of May, the Christian community of the Jerusalem Church in Karachi was approached by a group of armed Muslim criminals and told to vacate their church building and leave the area forever. The criminals are known locally for their violent reputation which includes activities such as targeted killings and seizing property from the poor and vulnerable.
John Nazareth Adil, a local social activist, told International Christian Concern (ICC) that "This church was constructed in the late '90s and carries membership of over 300 Christian families, however the [criminals] are after it and want to grab the whole property to use it for their agendas."
Pastor Ilyas Masih, a member of the church panel, informed ICC that this is not the first time the church has been harassed by this criminal group. Pastor Masih said that, "These Muslims have been pressuring the church people not to play musical instruments and asked the church leaders to stop girls from singing with boys in the church. Several times they stopped and threatened the worshipers and pastors for going into church for prayers and harassed the women in the past."
Now this group of criminals has issued one of the deadliest threats that can be made against a Christian community. Recently, the criminals told the Christians to vacate or face the dangers of a false blasphemy allegation. The criminals know that if they accuse the Christian community of blasphemy, there is little the Christians can do to defend themselves. However, despite these dire threats, Pastor Masih said, "The Christians of the locality have responded in a brave manner and announced that they [the Christians] will die [before they] let them grab the church property."
A female member of the community said, "We are not safe in our house, nor in the church neither on the roads. A Christian's life, worship places, and properties have no weight; therefore the international community must take notice of these cases and put pressure on the authorities to ensure the dignity, rights, and protection of Christians in this country."
Although the Christians have submitted an application for protection to the local police station, Pastor Masih told ICC that the Jerusalem Church remains under threat. Despite these continued threats, other leaders, both religious and political, from various denominations in Karachi have guaranteed their support to the Jerusalem Church community for justice and religious freedom.
Blasphemy accusations, even false ones, can have deadly consequences for Christians in Pakistan. In November 2014, a Christian couple near Lahore was accused of allegedly burning papers containing Quranic verses. As a result, a mob of over a thousand people beat the couple before burning them alive in a brick kiln. In March 2013 in a neighborhood of Lahore named Joseph Colony, accusations of blasphemy against a local Christian led to the entire neighborhood being burned to the ground.
Under the current blasphemy laws, acts of blasphemy are loosely defined, causing a wide misuse. False accusations of blasphemy are often used to settle personal scores, for personal gain, or incite anti-Christian violence. Please remember to pray for the Jerusalem Church in Karachi as they continue to face these criminals in order to keep their place of worship.
For interviews, contact William Stark, Regional Manager for South Asia: RM-SAsia@persecution.org
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