Published: 13:00 GMT Standard Time - Tuesday 12 March 2013
Muslim mob torches 178 Christian homes in Pakistan over blasphemy claim
Country/Region: South and East Asia, Pakistan
“We are facing the punishment of being Christians in Pakistan.”Shamim, whose home was destroyed in the attack
Hundreds of Christians have been left homeless in Pakistan after a 3,000-strong mob of Muslims torched their houses and shops and a church over a false blasphemy accusation against a Christian man.
|Attackers add fuel to the fire, destroying another Christian home|
The Christians of Joseph Colony in the Badami Bagh area of Lahore had fled in fear of their lives ahead of the violence on Saturday (9 March), after hearing calls from the mosque loudspeakers that urged Muslims to “kill the blasphemers”.
They were incited to attack the poor Christian neighbourhood in response to a complaint brought against Sawan Masih the previous day by a local Muslim, who said that the Christian had made derogatory remarks against Muhammad.
The mob attacked Sawan’s home and also broke into the properties of other Christian families, looting their goods before setting the houses on fire. A total of 178 houses and 75 shops were destroyed, leaving hundreds of Christians homeless and with nothing. Bibles were also burnt.
One of the victims, Aslam Masih (65), told one of our local project partners that it had taken him many years to save up to enable his two daughters to get married next month. He now cannot afford to buy a single meal for his family. Through tears, he said, “This incident has made us paupers”.
The attackers could not find Sawan but did catch and severely beat his father, Chaman Masih.
The destruction of the Christian community is brazenly celebrated
The police placated the mob by registering a blasphemy case against Sawan under section 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code, which prescribes the death penalty for defiling the name of Muhammad. Chaman was also taken into custody.
The alleged “blasphemy” incident took place on the night of 7 March during an exchange between Sawan, who is married with three children, and his Muslim friend.
Barnabas Fund is working with local partners on plans to help the homeless Christians of Joseph Colony rebuild their lives.
The Pakistani authorities have made a strong response to the anti-Christian violence. President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf have ordered an inquiry; the Punjab government has announced that the Christians will be compensated for their losses and that cases against the perpetrators will be prosecuted. Around 150 suspects have been arrested.
It remains to be seen, however, if firm action will be taken and promised help will be forthcoming. The incident is reminiscent of the burning of 60 Christian homes in Gojra in 2009 in which eight Christians were killed. Nobody has yet been convicted in connection with that attack.
And hundreds of Christians who were driven from their homes in Maherabad following a false blasphemy accusation against vulnerable Christian teenager Rimsha Masih last August have still not been able to return home.
Dr Patrick Sookhdeo, International Director of Barnabas Fund, said:
Once again, an entire Christian community in Pakistan has been ravaged and destroyed by Islamic extremists over an unsubstantiated blasphemy allegation. It is welcome news that these helpless Christian families will receive state compensation, but they are likely to need further support from their brothers and sisters elsewhere. Barnabas Fund will be standing with them in the weeks and months ahead as they try to rebuild their shattered lives.
If you would like to help the Christian families who have been affected by this incident, please send a donation to the Victims of Violence Fund (project 00-345).using our secure server.
If you prefer to telephone, dial: 0800 587 4006 from within the UK or +44 1672 565031 from outside the UK. Please quote project reference Victims of Violence Fund (project 00-345).
If you prefer to send a cheque by post: Click this link for the address of our regional office. Please quote project reference Victims of Violence Fund (project 00-345).
For a quick donation of £3.00 by SMS (see terms and conditions here) text Barnabas/345 to 70007 (Please note: This facility is presently only available to UK supporters).
- For all the Christian families who have lost their homes, shops and possessions in this traumatic incident. Pray that they will be given the practical, spiritual and emotional support they need to recover.
- For Sawan Masih and Chaman Masih, that the Lord will watch over them and protect them from those intent on their harm.
- That the Pakistani authorities will deliver on their pledges to provide compensation to the victims and pursue the offenders through the justice system.