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US Quran-burning condemned amid attacks on Pakistani Christians

Country/Region: Pakistan, South and East Asia, United States

Pakistani church leaders have condemned the burning of a Quran by a pastor in Florida amid widespread demonstrations and attacks against Christians in Pakistan.

Quran-lahore-museum_4X3.jpg

The provocative act at the church of controversial US pastor Terry Jones took place on Sunday 20 March; he acted as the "judge" in a "trial" of the Quran, which was then set alight by another pastor, Wayne Sapp, after being found "guilty" of crimes. Pastor Jones' plans to ignite a pile of Qurans on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks last year attracted widespread condemnation and raised fears of an Islamic backlash.

Demonstrations have been staged across Pakistan since the Quran-burning incident, which has been condemned by Pakistani Christian leaders and politicians. A senior church leader in Lahore described it as an "act of madness, which does not represent Christian values or teachings of the Church".

His comments followed an incident at a church in the city on Tuesday 22 March that bore the hallmarks of a retaliatory attack against Pakistani Christians for what happened in Florida. In loudspeaker announcements from the mosques, Muslim clerics accused local Christians of burning pages of the Quran, stirring up hundreds of Muslims to descend on the church to attack it.

Police were called to the scene and prevented the mob from damaging the church and hurting Christians. But the incident left local Christians in a state of fear, forcing them to stay indoors or flee the area.

One of the church leaders strongly denied that Christians had burnt pages from the Quran, saying that the clerics "pinned a lie on us" to provoke Muslims to attack the church. The accusation was made after a few pages, which contained Quranic verses, were found burning on a heap of rubbish.

Napolean Qayoom, Pakistan People's Party politician and human rights activist, said that there were some hardline clerics in the country who were trying to gain political advantage over the episode in the US.

The incident in Lahore came the day after an attack on a church in Hyderabad, Pakistan, where two Christians were shot dead and two others were injured by Muslim youths who had been shouting abuse at worshippers arriving for a prayer service.

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