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Christians take to streets in Pakistan to protest mob attack

Demonstrations held after Muslim mob attack Christian factory owner in Punjab's Sargodha district for alleged blasphemy
Christians celebrate Christmas at the rehabilitated Presbyterian Church in Jaranwala in Punjab province on Dec. 25, 2023. More than 80 Christian homes and 19 churches were vandalized in Jaranwala on Aug. 16, 2023.

Christians protest on May 26 at Peshawar Press Club in northern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province after an angry mob attacked a Christian family in Sargodha in Punjab province. (Photo: Nosherwan Iqbal)



Published: May 27, 2024 06:41 AM GMT
Updated: May 27, 2024 11:27 AM GMT

Christians in Pakistan have taken to the streets across the Muslim-majority nation to protest yet another mob attack over blasphemy in central Punjab province on May 25.

“We demand justice for the [Christian] community. The tragedies are being repeated,” said Nosherwan Iqbal, chairman of the Peace Committee in the Hazara division in the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

From Peshawar city in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to southern Karachi in Sindh, Christians gathered in large numbers to protest the mob attack on two houses and a shoe factory in Sargodha district in Punjab.

The Christian factory owner, Nazir Masih, is accused of burning the pages of the Quran in his residential area in Mujahid colony and was attacked by a mob, numbering over 400 and armed with batons, bricks, and stones.

“Our brother, a businessman, was victimized. We are peaceful people being pushed to their limits,” Iqbal told UCA News on May 26.

More than 200 Christian families from Sargodha, half of them Catholics, have fled as the vital Punjab province witnessed another mob attack over blasphemy in August last year.

Blasphemy is punishable by death In Pakistan. But no one has been executed by the government. However, in numerous cases, mob lynching has taken place in the South Asian nation of 241 million people where Christians make up less than 1.59 percent.

The draconian blasphemy law in the Islamic nation is often used against Christian, Hindu, Sikh, and Ahmadi minority communities to settle personal scores.  The Minorities Alliance Pakistan (MAP) demanded punishment for the perpetrators of violence in Sargodha.

Iqbal recalled the mob attack on churches and 80 houses in Jaranwala under Faisalabad diocese last year following allegations of desecration of the Islamic holy book by two local Christians.

A member of the Presbyterian Church who sustained serious injuries in Sargodha is being treated at a hospital and his family members are being kept incommunicado after they were rescued by security agencies.

Masih desecrated the Quran and “spread religious hatred by hurting feelings of Muslims and risked peace in the area,” Muhammad Jahangir, a counselor and property agent, said in his complaint to the police.

The police , meanwhile, have registered cases against 450 unknown persons under an anti-terrorism law and 25 people have been arrested for the attack on Masih.

At one demonstration, Christians in Peshawar declared May 25 as a “black day” and more than 500 protesters at the Faisalabad District Council Chowk in central Punjab blocked traffic for two hours and 20 women burned their dupattas (head scarves) in protest, Akmal Bhatti, a Catholic political leader and head of the MAP said.

“We feel our dignity is not safe. When our males are victimized under a sensitive religious law, females suffer and daughters appear in courts,” said a woman coordinator of the MAP, who wished to remain anonymous.

“The murderous attempt in Sargodha has depressed the community and our children,” she added.

In Karachi, Christians protested at the Press Club, demanding the dismissal of senior police officials.

Video footage of the mob attack showed the police doing nothing. However, the police have denied the claim.

The Sargodha district administration has banned rallies and imposed Section 144, a colonial-era law that bans public gatherings, till May 31. Additional police have been deployed to maintain law and order.

Father David John, parish priest of Divine Mercy Catholic church in Mujahid colony where the mob attack took place, said the situation is under control now.

Only a few families have returned though police have assured us of protection, the priest added.

Less than 50 Catholics attended the feast of the Blessed Trinity in Mujahid colony on May 26, he said.

“We are worried at the repeated targeting,” said John who now acts as a member of the peace committee, set up by the district administration.

Archbishop Joseph Arshad of Islamabad-Rawalpindi convened a meeting with Church officials and lawmakers on May 25 evening in Sargodha. He condemned the “brutal attack.”

Last year, five blasphemy cases were registered against Christians in Sargodha district.

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2 Comments on this Story
Good that the Christians in Pakistan have protested.
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