ASIA/PAKISTAN - Blasphemy, nothing changes: new cases of Christians under fire

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Lahore (Agenzia Fides) – "Christians are under fire with the instrumental use of the anti-blasphemy law. The cases of false allegations continue and we are very concerned. There have been at least 5 in the last two months. Unfortunately, there is no change in sight: the government does not consider a revision or abolition of the law. And this is very serious." This is what Fides has been told by Peter Jacob, executive secretary of the National Commission for Justice and Peace, in the Bishops' Conference of Pakistan, after new cases of Christians being falsely accused of blasphemy.
In the spotlight, in recent days, is the case of Asia Bibi, the first woman sentenced to death for the crime of blasphemy. In June 2009 the married woman, mother of two, while working with other Muslim women in the countryside, in the Punjab province, was labeled an "infidel" and asked to convert to Islam. Asia defended the Christian religion and refused. With that, she was accused of insulting the Prophet Muhammad. She was beaten along with her children and carried out by the police, who registered the allegations against her. Days ago, the court found her guilty based on the testimony of Muslims and has sentenced her to death. "This is a genuine violation of human dignity and truth. We will do all we can to have the sentence changed or overturned on appeal," Peter Jacob told Fides, confirming the interest of the Commission for Justice and Peace on the case of Asia Bibi.
The Commission has provided Fides with a list of recent cases of false accusations of blasphemy and violations of human rights - at least 5 in the last two months.
In mid-September, Tasawar Masih, a Christian youth of Sargodha, was accused by Muslim youth of insulting the Prophet. Some Muslim religious leaders at the front of a crowd of militants forced Masih's family, composed of 10 people to leave the village. The family had a home and land and ended up with nothing, living in conditions of displacement and misery.
In the District of Sialkot, another Christian, Walayat Masih, was framed. A copy of the Koran with a few pages burned was found in front of his house. A crowd of people gathered around his front door and it was only through police intervention that they averted a lynching. The police took him into custody for five days.
At the beginning of October, the Commission says, three men in Lahore, Shaheed Hassan Butt, Sheikh Shahid, and Nawazish have been accused of having snatched and thrown into the trash a few pages of the Koran. The complaint and the subsequent class action against them has been led by the leaders of the Ahl-e-Hadith mosque. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 10/11/2010)