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Pakistan Christian still on death row, five years after his ‘blasphemy’ sparked Joseph Colony attack

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At the fifth anniversary of the arson attack on a Christian neighborhood in the Pakistani city of Lahore, the mother of the Christian man convicted of blaspheming against Islam – and so provoking the attack – says she still prays for his release.

Sawan Masih*, a 30-year-old sanitation worker, was accused by a Muslim friend of making blasphemous remarks against the prophet Muhammad on 9 March 2013, for which he was sentenced to death in 2014. His appeal is still pending reports World Watch Monitor.

Following the initial accusation against him, an over 3,000-strong mob descended on Joseph Colony, setting fire to over 150 houses, including the Masih family’s home.

An anti-terrorism court last year acquitted every one of the more than 100 suspects accused of involvement in the attack, but Masih, a father of three, is still being held in the Central Jail in Faisalabad, 140km west of Lahore, awaiting the outcome of his appeal at the Lahore High Court.

His wife and children have moved in with her family. His mother, Billo Bibi, 50, says the authorities are considering moving her son to a jail in Sahiwal, a city even farther away from them. “Travelling to another city was already tough. Now they are sending him farther away,” she told the Catholic news agency UCAN.

“I used to call him Buri. We still pray for his release. My elderly husband has developed breathing complications since his arrest. He does not speak anymore,” she added.

Protest of the Christian persecution experienced by the Joseph Colony where an entire village was set on fire by a large Muslim mob. -Photo by Sunny Gill (used with permission)

Protests against blasphemy law

On 9 March an annual candlelit vigil in commemoration of the Joseph Colony attack was held, while on the same day protestors gathered in front of the Punjab Assembly in Lahore to protest against misuse of the country’s blasphemy laws.

In an effort to stop the abuse, Pakistan’s Senate Special Committee on Human Rights recommended last week that those who falsely accuse someone of blasphemy should receive the same punishment as those convicted of blasphemy.

There is, however, strong opposition from right-wing political groups against any changes being made to the law.

Critics of the law say it has often been misused to settle personal scores, while procedural “loopholes” have also led to the filing of false charges, as happened in the case of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman on death row for blasphemy since 2010.

In the case of the attack on Joseph Colony, Pakistan’s Supreme Court has suggested the land on which the colony was set up could be the prime reason it was targeted, because it belonged to the government and is surrounded by huge factory complexes. Weeks before the incident residents had been threatened by a “group from the land mafia in the city’s Misri Shah [scrap] market”, according to the President of Pakistan Minority Front’s Lahore Chapter. “The issue was to move these people so that the scrap market could be extended,” he said shortly after the attack.

*The name ‘Masih’, which derives from ‘Messiah’, has been used for whole Christian communities for many years in Pakistan. Bibi, meanwhile, is a respectful term for a married or older woman in Pakistan and other parts of South Asia. 

These two little ones needed immediate medical attention for a horrible skin rash. They’ve recovered! VOP also helped to cover their nutritional needs for the month.

HELP SAVE THE PERSECUTED

Voice of the Persecuted is on the ground in Thailand helping to care for Pakistani Christian asylum seekers who’ve fled persecution in Pakistan. They’re legally unable to work, children are not allowed to attend school and facing brutal hardship in a harsh country. Many are being denied by the UNHCR claiming it’s safe to return to Pakistan. see our report.

Together with your generous help, we can reach the goal to alleviate horrific suffering. In darkness and desperation, let us serve in love, with open arms and giving hands to provide light and hope. Please consider our mission to help  care for a family and bring much needed supplies and nutrition to those suffering in the notorious IDC.

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Every day, we thank God that He is working through you to care for His children and to further His Kingdom! As you greatly bless others, may God continue to bless you. Thank you so much for your support. We couldn’t do it without you!
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2 Comments

  1. Praying for his release.

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