HUNDREDS of Pakistani Christians became homeless in Badami Bagh, Lahore, on Saturday, March 9 after an attack by a mob of 3000 fanatics. Two hundred homes in the Joseph Colony were turned to ashes and poor Christians of the neighbourhood 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.
One Sajid Masih said, “I feel helpless and unable to do anything for myself and my family”, as he broke into tears. Christians around the country are incensed by the recurring theme of blasphemy allegation followed by attacks and burning down of their vulnerable communities. They have held protests across the country in a concerted effort to vent their disgust at the recent incident and to show solidarity with the victims.
In Youhanabad and Kot Lakhpat, Lahore police used the opportunity to beat the innocent Christian protesters. They shot tear gas shells 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, Sialkot, Jhelum and Sahiwal, to name but a few.
Jhelum controversy: Muslims of Jhelum city have threatened to burn Christians home in response to the protests. Now the community is living in fear of reprisals for their simple act of condemning violence and the blasphemy laws of Pakistan. According to sources, on March 12, 2013, when Christians of Jhelum city went to protest against the violence in Joseph Colony, chanting slogans “Repeal Blasphemy Law” and “Blasphemy law is Black Law”, local imams called on Muslims from the mosque loudspeakers to gather and punish those Christians who were decrying 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 around 26 Christian families have been living among the large Muslim population of Machine 2 mohallah since Partition. The local Christians arranged a protest to show solidarity with Christians of Joseph Colony, 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.
Sialkot: Pastor Naeem Bhadhar, a Presbyterian missionary living in a village Kalaswala, Pasroor Road, district Sialkot, 140 kilometres away from Lahore city, told me on telephone that he had arranged a protest rally in their city, but on March 14 when he was travelling back to his village a few radical Muslims from Jamaatud Dawa severely beat him with sticks and destroyed his motorcycle. He was severely injured and was taken to hospital where he got a number of stitches on his left arm. He has been warned by the extremist group that if any Christian organises further protests, he will be killed!
British Pakistani Christian Association Chairman Wilson Chowdhry has said, “The quality of life for Pakistani Christians has reached its 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 Pakistani Christian communities decried this treatment, they have been savagely attacked by police authorities and threatened by local imams.
By Daily Times