Published: 11:00 GMT Daylight Time - Thursday 02 May 2013
Third Christian community in 50 days attacked by Muslims in Pakistan
Country/Region: South and East Asia, Pakistan
Christians in a village in Punjab, Pakistan were forced to evacuate their homes after they were attacked by armed Muslims who threatened to destroy their property; theirs is the third Christian community to come under attack in less than two months.
|Christian residents of Eassa Pur village, where the attack took place|
A mob of around 50-60 armed Muslims attacked Christians in Eassa Pur village, Khanewal district, on 26 April. The furious assailants opened fire on the believers after beating them and throwing stones at their houses, which they also threatened to torch.
When the police arrived they took control of the furious mob, evacuating the Christian community to a safe place. Christian communities in nearby villages were also forced to flee their homes after receiving threats against their property.
A Muslim man was killed in the clashes, and two Christians and one Muslim were injured. Police have registered against a case against five Christians following the violence, but they have not pursued legal action against the Muslims who instigated it.
The violent attack followed an incident earlier that day involving Asher Masih, the son of Christian farmer Yaqoob Masih. Two Muslim men came to Asher’s shop and harassed him because Yaqoob, who had originally been pressured into hiring a threshing machine from one of them, had hired a different machine instead because the Muslim had ignored repeated requests to send his. The assailants slapped Asher and beat him brutally, and the mob violence broke out just hours later.
Muslims in the village had also threatened to burn down Christian property during a previous attack on 6 April. A group of Muslims beat local Christians severely when a dispute broke out because two Christian men were sitting on mats that were not facing towards Mecca. After this attack, tensions continued to run high despite a contract of compromise being signed by both parties.
Some local Christians believe that Muslims are using any excuse to create hostilities in order to take over Christian property. Asher and Yaqoob Masih are major landowners in the village, and another prominent local Christian was accused by Muslims of being involved in the clashes despite not being present at the time.
Eassa Pur is traditionally a Christian village, but in recent decades the number of Christian landowners has dwindled as Muslim residents have taken over their land by various means. Only 50-60 Christian families now remain in what has become a strongly Muslim area.
A disturbing trend
Outbreaks of violence against entire Christian communities in response to personal disputes are becoming disturbingly frequent; this attack is the third of its kind in recent months. In Joseph Colony, Lahore, a Muslim mob torched 178 Christian homes on 9 March after a local Christian was accused of blasphemy following an exchange with a Muslim friend.
Then, on 3 April, Muslim extremists attacked a Christian neighbourhood in Francis Colony, Gujranwala, following a minor dispute between Muslim and Christian youths. A church building was ransacked and dozens of shops and vehicles vandalised after Muslims were incited over mosque loudspeakers to “teach the Christians a lesson”.
This latest incident shows that the attitudes of many Muslims in the area towards their Christian neighbours have changed little in the last 16 years. Just 10-15 kilometres away from Eassa Pur is Shanti Nagar, where a similar incident took place in February 1997. On that occasion, Muslim extremists burned down 850 Christian homes and 13 church buildings.