Here is a report on the recent protest in Pakistan by Shamim Masih our officer in Pakistan:
Hundreds Pakistani Christians become homeless in Badami Bagh, Lahore, on Staurday 9th March after an attack by a mob of 3000 Muslim fanatics. 200 homes of Joseph Colony were turned to ashes and poor Christians are now living in the streets, desperate for food and other needs. Their children cannot attend school or college due to the destruction and fear. Many Residents have expressed great dismay and sorrow and depression is seeping through the entire community.
Sajid Masih said;
"I feel helpless and unable to do anything for myself and my family" as he broke into tears before them.
Christians around the country incensed by the recurring theme of a blasphemy allegation followed by teh attack and burning down of our vulnerbale communities, held protest across the country in a concerted effort to vent their disgust at this most recent incident and to show solidarity with the victims.
In Youhanabad and Kot Lakhpat, Lahore police used this opportunity to beat the innocent Christian protestors, they shot tear gas at them and beat them with sticks. Yet when the Muslim attack took place they stood back and watched till the town had been razed to the ground.
There were protests in Islamabad, Rawalpindi (10th March), Sialkot, Jhelum (12th March) and Sahiwal (13th March), to name but a few.
Muslims of Jhelum city have threatened to burn Christians home like Joseph Colony Lahore, in response to the protests. Now the community living there is living in fear of reprisals for their simple act of condemning violence and the blasphemy laws of Pakistan that have been used as a tool for destruction and intimidation.
According to sources, on March 12, 2013, when Christians of Jhelam city went to protest against the violence in Joseph Colony, chanting slogans “Repeal Blasphemy Law” and “Blasphemy law is Black Law”. Local Imams preached hatred from their mosque loudspeakers calling Muslims to gather together and punish those Christians who were decying the Blasphemy law. Local radicals have pressured the area police station to lodge a First Investigation Report – FIR under 295-C PPC, against Christians who chanted slogans against the blasphemy laws.
Basharat Khokhar, a human rights activist told us that there were around 26 Christian families living among the large Muslim population of Machine 2 mahallah, since partition. The local Christians arranged their protest to show their solidarity with Christians of Joseph Colony, Lahore, and Mr. George Masih led the protest rally. They obtained permission from the District Police Officer (DPO) who provided them with security. There were 250 people in the protest rally. The next day, Muslims demanded the arrest of George Masih and called for the registration of an FIR against him.
According to Pastor Naeem Bhadhar, a Presbyterian missionary living in a village KALASWALA, Pasroor Road, district Sialkot, 140 km away from Lahore city. He told me on telephone that he had arranged a protest rally in their city but today on 14th March, 2013, when he was travelling back to his village a few radical Muslims from Jammat ut Dawa (a Muslim organization) severely beaten him with sticks and destroyed his motorcycle. He has been severely injured and was taken to hospital and has had a number of stitches on his left arm. He has been warned by the extremist group, that if any Christians organise further protests, they will be killed!
Wilson Chowdhry Chairman of the BPCA said;
"The quality of life for Pakistani Christians has reached a nadir, this recent attack on Badami Bagh is unwarranted and a blight on the nation." St Joseph's community have been left destitute and homeless and when other Paksitani Christian communities decried this treatment, they have been savagely attacked by police authorities and threatened by local Imams. Yet police failed to intervene when 200 Christian homes and two churches were being raised to the ground? He added;
"This dual standard response has illustrated how minorities are regarded as worthless anathema, in a nation that has espoused the demonization of any non-Muslims in their educational textbooks and media. Blame for the continuing extremism in Pakistan therefore lies firmly in the hands of the political leaders, whose lack of equality measures has resulted in sectarianism, community schism and opportunists/religious zealots taking advantage of vulnerable minorities. Unless the Government of Pakistan reforms its legal frameworks, constitution and national curriculum to protect and recognise its minorities, the polarisation we see now will eventually manifest as numerous massacres."