ASIA/PAKISTAN - Accusation of blasphemy: violence in a Christian area in Lahore, but "no alarmism"

Monday, 25 May 2015

Lahore (Agenzia Fides) - The Christian area of Sanda, in the oldest area of Lahore, was the scene of new violence, yesterday afternoon, 24 May, following a case of blasphemy. "The police intervened promptly, and managed to avoid mass violence. Today the rangers patrol the area and the situation is completely under control", refers to Agenzia Fides Shane Cecil Chaudhry, Executive Director of the "Justice and Peace" Commission of the Bishops of Pakistan (NCJP), minimizing the incident, after alarming and exaggerated reports were spread by some mass media. "There were no deaths or injuries. No church was burned. Some protesters threw stones and tried to enter and plunder the Roman Catholic Church of St. Joseph, but they did not succeed thanks to the prompt intervention of the police who stopped and also indicted some attackers. Some private homes of faithful Christians in the district were slightly damaged", explains the Director, asking not to give in to alarmism. "There are people and groups that tend to increase incidents and violence against Christians, for their personal interests or for economic reasons. It is necessary to be very careful when news is spread, which is often manipulated at the origin", notes Chaudhry.
The incident was sparked by an alleged case of blasphemy. Yesterday, the police received a warning, and arrested a man for having allegedly desecrated pages of the Koran. The Christian Humayun Faisal Masih was accused and a blasphemy case under Article 295-b of the Criminal Code (desecration of the Koran) was registered. The man, mentally disabled, was accused by some Muslims of having burned pages of the holy book of Islam. Some passers-by denounced it. After the arrest, a group of people began to gather at the police station, carrying out acts of violence, but agents dispersed the crowd. The protesters then tried to turn their anger toward the Christian area, but the police controlled the situation.
Fr. James Channan, Dominican, Director of the "Peace Center" in Lahore, told Fides: "It is a cliché that is repeated: accusations of blasphemy, to be verified, followed by mass violence. It has already happened in the past. Christians are terrified because they can suddenly be attacked. According to the blasphemy law, there is a procedure to be respected and no one must be allowed to take the law into his hands. Institutions and the police must ensure security and justice. On the other hand we can work to combat the culture of hatred that extremist groups spread in society, working for dialogue and harmony". (PA) (Agenzia Fides 25/05/2015)