Jihadi outfits in the Muslim-majority nation consider Christian citizens to be agents of Western nations
Activists of the right-wing religious Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) party shout anti-Sweden slogans during a demonstration in Multan, Pakistan on July 3 as they protest against the burning of the Koran outside a Stockholm mosque that outraged Muslims around the world. (Photo: AFP)
Church leaders in Pakistan have called on the authorities to protect its places of worship following threats from an extremist Islamic group in the wake of the Quran burning incident in Sweden on the Islamic festival of Eid al-Adha.
Naeem Yousaf Gill, an official of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Pakistan, said they have urged authorities to be on alert against the July 1 threat of the banned Sunni militant group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi.
The Church in Pakistan "condemn the desecration of the Quran" in Sweden, said Gill, the executive director of the National Commission for Justice and Peace.
"As a religious minority, we live in brotherhood and peace and have always supported the majority. We can’t imagine violating sensitive laws,” Gill said.
The militant group said: "Christianity has challenged the honor of Muslims by desecrating the Quran in Sweden. If a Christian desecrates the Quran in another country, the Jhangvi, who walk the path of martyrdom will make Pakistan a hell for Christianity."
"Neither the Church nor Christians will now remain safe in Pakistan. Inshallah [if Allah wills] Sunni youths will put their lives on the line and take revenge for the desecration of the Quran by waging suicide attacks on Christians of Pakistan,” it stated.
“It’s a pity that jihadi organizations have limited [themselves] to condemning instead of killing the Christians desecrating the Quran. The LeJ now requests emirs [Arab rulers] of all organizations to direct their suicide daredevils towards Christianity," it added.
Father Khalid Rashid Asi, Faisalabad diocesan director of the Commission for Interfaith Dialogue and Ecumenism, on July 3 met with police officials in the district's Madina Town, home to nearly 4,000 Christians.
He also asked all priests in the diocese to contact their respective police stations for the security of their parishes, convents, schools and other departments.
“This is very important. The sensitivity must be realized. Lock your churches and departments, check the camera and security,” he told the parish priests in a communication.
“The Quran burnings must stop. As humans, we all must respect the holy books and strive for a culture of peace and harmony,” he told UCA News.
Father Asi recalled the 2009 anti-Christian rampage in Punjab province that left 10 Catholics dead after hundreds of LeJ supporters attacked Christian homes following allegations that a copy of the Quran was defiled.
The latest threat in Pakistan came after Salwan Momika, an Iraqi-born refugee, burnt the pages of the Muslim holy book outside Sweden's largest mosque in the capital Stockholm on Eid al-Adha on June 28.
On July 2, protestors gathered outside the press club in Karachi, the largest city in Pakistan, urging the Foreign Office to summon the Swedish ambassador to lodge a strong protest.
The Swedish government had given Momika a permit, citing free-speech laws.Muslims do not tolerate any intentional damage or show of disrespect to their holy book.
Pakistani Christians have been the target of several terrorist attacks after the United States, viewed by many Pakistani Muslims to be a pro-Christian nation, attacked neighboring Muslim majority Afghanistan in 2001, and the release of Innocence of Muslims, a 2012 film that offended Muslims throughout the world.
Most Pakistanis view the United States and European countries as Christian and jihadi outfits consider Pakistani Christians to be their agents.
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