Christians urge PM and Pakistanis to stand up against religious extremism

Christians urge PM and Pakistanis to stand up against religious extremism

The latest case of blasphemy and persecution of minorities by the extremists in Pakistan comes from Chak 44 in District Mandi Bahauddin

By Lee Erik Joseph

Even though Pakistan’s existence is duly credited to the Islamic movement in India before the partition, but after the creation of Pakistan, Christians and other minorities never had to face such dire circumstances and persecution prior to the Blasphemy Law. The Law was introduced in 1986 through Section 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code during the dictatorial regime of General Mohammad Zia-ul- Haq, whose dictatorship was a combination of military and the right-wing religious-political groups that he used to aid his regime and to strengthen his dictator. During that time, Islamization and Jihad was promoted and used against the Soviet military in Afghanistan.

Since then Pakistan’s Blasphemy Law has been used by religious extremist as a weapon to cleanse minorities from their neighbourhoods. This law is used to justify the heinous crimes against other religious minorities such as Christians and Hindus. The same law is also used against Muslims who differ from the main sect and are often declared as Non-Muslims by the majority. These sects include Ahmedis, Shias, Bahais, Zakris etc. In recent times, Christians have been the main target by the religious extremists where these fundamentalists use this law to settle personal scores, vengeance and rivalries. This has aided these political-religious groups in taking over lands and businesses of Christians, from forced conversions to the hindering of preaching their faith.

Case of Chak 44 in Mandi Bahauddin

The Christians of a village Chak 44 in District Mandi Bahauddin of the Punjab province of Pakistan face death threats by the villagers. This village consist of around 4000 houses – around 50 of these homes are owned by people who practice the Christian faith. They are facing social and economic boycott, as they are refused to work in the fields by their employers and the shops have stopped selling them the goods they require for their everyday need. They are offered with the option of converting to Islam or either they leave the village.

The religious extremists of the village have demanded to hand over Imran Masih who has been accused of blasphemy. The accusation was made by a colleague of Imran Masih after gazing into his phone, in which some say, that he was watching a clip of an Islamic preacher. The blasphemy is “How dare a Choora listens to our religious scholars”. ‘Choora’ is a term used for Christians in Pakistan to express disgust for them.

There are different versions to the story on what really might have happened. Some sources say that his colleague asked him for his phone in which he was accused of watching a video of a pastor who is critical of Islam. He was beaten up severely by the other colleague and locked up in a room and later rescued by the officials of his work place.

After a few days the man who accused him went to the head of the mosque and gave him the account of what happened. After the Friday prayers, the Imam of the mosque ordered for the destruction of the homes of the Christians. This is turning out to be similar to the events of  the fateful day of March 9, 2013 when an angry mob torched dozes of house in the Christian neighbourhood of Joseph Colony located in the City of Lahore. The reason was the same as a Christian man was falsely accused of Blasphemy. Later that evening the mob which included people from banned religious extremists groups and surrounded the houses. The police managed to restrain them, but now the Christian are living in fear and under constant threat of death and exile. They demand for Imran Masih to be handed over so they could burn him in front of the local church.

Media’s deafening silence on threat to Christians in Mandi Bahauddin

The Pakistani mainstream media’s apathy and the deafening silence on the threat and fear in Mandi Bahauddin is appalling. There has not even a single mention of the dire situation those Christians are facing by the mainstream television channels.

We call upon the Prime Minister of Pakistan to uphold his promise which he made late last year. He said that each and every citizen of Pakistan will be protected by the state, irrespective of their religion, sect or caste, and that no cause is holier than protecting the life and property of the people.

We call upon the Pakistan Army Chief Gen. Raheel Sharif to take notice of the situation currently mounting and to ensure the protection of Christians in Mandi Bahauddin.

And finally we urge and request our Muslim brothers from the majority to raise their voice against the barbarisms steered by the extremists, and to support the Christians in these dreadful times.

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