VOICE OF THE PERSECUTED

Category Archives: Pakistan

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Pastor suspects arson in Pakistan church fire

 

 

 

UCN News shared with Voice of the Persecuted a report of a mysterious fire that damaged a Protestant church in a Pakistani town rocked by blasphemy protests two months ago.

Gospel of Jesus Mission Church is in a narrow street of a Christian basti (slum) in Shahdara town near Lahore, the capital of Punjab province.

The remains of burnt holy books, an offering bag and a chimta (music tongs) lay near the half-melted pulpit of the building, which has been under construction for more than three years.

Pastor Yousaf Aziz John filed a police complaint on April 15 at Shahdara police station, where a peace agreement between local clerics and Christian leaders was signed on Feb. 21 after an angry mob protested against Patras Masih, 18, who allegedly shared an anti-Islam photo on Facebook.

“We are a poor community and had been building the House of God with donations. We strongly believe that unknown miscreants have committed this evil. The losses amount to about 50,000 rupees (US$430). We demand an immediate remedy for the wounds of the whole Christian community,” Pastor John told ucanews.com.

Police sub-inspector Rana Amir visited the site on April 16 and recorded statements from the community.

“The forensics department collected samples the same night. A report will be released this week revealing the cause of the fire. A security plan has been chalked for the 14 churches of Shahdara registered with the police station, but no forces are appointed for unregistered ones,” he said.

Churches not registered with the Auqaf Department, which supervises important religious monuments and holy places, are deemed illegal by the government. In January, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province closed but later reopened six home-based churches in Abbottabad.

Police have warned that they will not take any responsibility for any mishaps at prayer gatherings in residential areas. Home-based churches are common in Christian ghettos and their surroundings. Youhanabad, the largest Christian settlement in Pakistan, has more than 100 unregistered churches usually comprising a single room or a hall.

Khalid Shahzad, a Catholic activist based in Shahdara, slammed police for filing the Shahdara case as an accidental fire.

“Only the sections regarding vandalism and loss of property have been nominated in the first information police report. They deliberately skipped the blasphemy clause 295 which deals with acts intended to insult religion or religious beliefs of others. This loophole will help in bail for the accused if arrested,” he said.

“The community was already living in fear after the recent blasphemy case in an adjoining village.” Read more

 

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2 dead, others injured in attack on Christian community near church in Quetta

Blood on the ground following an attack at a church in Quetta, Pakistan

Pakistan: We received information that two members of the Christian community were killed and between 5 to 9 others injured in a shooting incident near a church in Quetta. The incident occurred when worshipers were leaving the Sunday service at a church in Essa Nagri area of the provincial capital, DawnNews reported.

In a drive-by shooting, gunmen opened fire on the members of the Christian community and managed to flee the scene. Victims were rushed to a Quetta medical center, but two of the worshipers succumbed to their injuries. Screams and wailing was heard as the two bodies were brought in covered with white sheets at the Hospital.

A day after Easter Sunday, four members of a Christian family were also killed by gunmen while travelling on Quetta’s Shah Zaman road to celebrate with relatives. Later, the Islamic State (ISIS) claimed responsibility for the attack. Officials confirmed the Christians were targeted for their faith.

In December, nine people were killed and 30 injured when  suicide bombers attacked the Bethel Memorial Methodist Church on Quetta’s Zarghoon Road. At least two suicide attackers had struck the Bethel Memorial Church while Sunday service was ongoing. There were 400 worshipers inside the church when the assault started. The Islamic State also claimed responsibility for the attack.

The Islamic State (ISIS) has created a branch in Pakistan and Afghanistan by recruiting established militants.

Pakistan is experiencing a continuing rise of aggression and violent persecution against the Pakistani Christian community. The latest incident is the second attack deadly on Christians in the area, this month. Please pray believers in Pakistan.

VOP is on the ground in Thailand helping Christian asylum seekers who’ve fled persecution in Pakistan. Please Join hands with us to spread the love of Jesus. Keep us in your prayers as we try to raise the needed funds for the relief mission. If you feel led to help, please consider our mission and donate, today. Go with us to Thailand through your blessings  to share with these dear brothers and sisters who have suffered so much. God bless you and your families.

HELP SAVE THE PERSECUTED

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.

HELP SAVE THE PERSECUTED

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!
You may also send your gift to:

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P.O. Box 122
Trenton, MI. 48183

4 Christians killed for faith by Islamists in Pakistan

(Voice of the Persecuted) A day after Easter Sunday, four Pakistani Christians were killed when attackers opened fire on the rickshaw they were riding on Monday evening in the city of Quetta in Pakistan’s Balochistan province. Three of the victims were family members who were traveling to visit relatives to celebrate the Easter holiday. The driver was also a Christian. Soon after the attack, their bodies were transferred to Civil Hospital Quetta.

Dawn News reported that, Police official Muhammad Anwar Khokhar said unidentified attackers riding a motorbike opened fire on a rickshaw which resulted in the death of four members of the Christian community. A minor girl was also injured in the attack, he added.

Another report shared Provincial Police Chief Moazzam Jah Ansari as saying, “All four died on the spot while a woman was injured and rushed to a hospital.” He added that her father and three cousins were killed in the firing.

Officials confirmed the Christians were targeted for their faith.

In a statement released today by its Aamaq news agency, the Islamic State terror group claimed responsibility for the attack on the Christians.

The Baluchistan region is afflicted by violence of Sunni Islamist groups associated with the Taliban, al Qaeda and Islamic State. Islamic State has branches in both Afghanistan and Pakistan through Islamist militant groups who support their radical sectarian views.

Please pray for Christians experiencing continued persecution in Pakistan.

 

Court in Pakistan Acquits 20 Muslims Suspected in Brick-Kiln Killing of Christian Couple

Attack victims,Shazad Masih and his wife Shama Shazad Masih were brutally beaten and senselessly murdered and thrown into a brick kiln fire by a huge mob

Yet another travesty of justice and devastating blow for Christians in Pakistan. Morning Star News reports that an anti-terrorism court in Lahore, Pakistan on Saturday (March 24) acquitted 20 Muslims suspected of involvement in the killing and burning in a brick kiln of a Christian couple in 2014, sources said.

A frenzied Muslim mob of hundreds, incited by announcements made over a mosque loudspeaker, tortured and killed Shahzad Masih, 26, and 24-year-old Shama Masih in November 2014 after they were accused of blasphemy in Punjab’s Kot Radha Kishan area. In 2016 five Muslims were sentenced to death for the killing and eight others were sentenced to two years in prison for their involvement, but Christians believe Saturday’s verdict dashes hopes of complete justice for the family of the slain brick-kiln workers.

The mob tore the clothes off the couple, struck them, broke their legs, dragged them behind a tractor and threw them into the burning furnace of a brick kiln – even though Shama Masih, a pregnant mother of four, was illiterate and could not have known even if koranic verses were among debris that she had burned. Under Pakistan’s widely condemned blasphemy statutes, intent must be shown for a conviction of desecrating the Koran. Read VOP’s  report of the brick kiln mob attack and call for justice.

Attorney Aneeqa Maria, who is representing Shama Masih’s family, said the court acquitted the 20 men on Saturday (March 24), giving them the benefit of the doubt. She said the Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) had already granted bail to the lead suspect, Yousaf Gujjar, in April 2016, raising doubts about the Punjab government’s intention to deliver justice to the family.

“The government itself is complainant in the case, while the police officials present on the scene witnessed the entire incident and identified the accused,” she said. “Yet, we were appalled when Gujjar walked out on bail, and now more suspects have been let off by the court due to insufficient evidence.”

She added that of 140 suspects named, police had been able to arrest 81, while 59 were still absconding.

The police First Information Report (FIR) filed at the time said between 500 and 600 people were in the mob that burned the couple in Chak 59 village, Kot Radha Kishan, Kasur, about 60 kilometers (37 miles) from Lahore.

Gujjar’s name was on top of the list of 52 suspects that police believed were directly responsible for the incident. The investigation at that time found Gujjar and his son “guilty of egging on a prayer leader to declare Shama and Shahzad guilty of blasphemy from the loudspeaker of a mosque.”

Five relatives of Shahzad Masih, including his two brothers, however, told the ATC that Gujjar was not present at the crime scene. A police official who is the complainant in the case also retracted his statement in court regarding Gujjar’s presence at the time of the incident. Shama’s family insists that Gujjar had played a major role in the lynching, as he had forcibly stopped the couple from leaving the kiln since they owed him money.

Senior Supreme Court Advocate Saiful Malook told Morning Star News that the acquittals showed that police had intentionally built a weak case.

“This case could have been a watershed moment for the Pakistani government to regain confidence of its minorities and the international community regarding concerns over the violence perpetrated in the name of blasphemy, however the developments in the case are very disappointing,” he told Morning Star News.

Malook, who is pleading the appeal in the Supreme Court of Christian mother Aasiya Noreen (commonly known as Asia Bibi) against her death sentence under Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, said that violence against minority communities, particularly Christians, cannot be contained unless the government fulfills its responsibility completely.

“The government made an unprecedented move by becoming complainant in the case,” he said. “It should have ensured that the case was watertight so that no accused would be able to escape justice, however grant of bail to the lead suspect and acquittals of several others shows the government lacked the commitment to follow the case in the first place.”

The gruesome incident prompted the Pakistani government itself to become the claimant against the double murder, the first such move by the government in a blasphemy case, but it slowly began to lose interest in the case, attorney Maria said.

In the November 2016 convictions, the ATC also directed the convicts – Muslim cleric Hafiz Ishtiaq, Mehdi Khan, Riaz Kumboh, Irfan Shakoor and Muhammad Hanif – to pay 100,000 rupees (about US$1,000) each as compensation to the heirs of the victims.

The eight convicted of aiding and abetting the crime are Muhammad Hussain, Noorul Hasan, Muhammad Arsalan, Muhammad Haris, Muhammad Muneer, Muhammad Ramazan, Irfan and Hafiz Shahid.

Christian on Death Row Acquitted

Separately, a Christian sentenced to death in a blasphemy case in Gujranwala two years ago was acquitted by the Lahore High Court on March 13.

Attorney Riaz Anjum told Morning Star News that a division bench of the high court comprising Justices Mazahar Ali Naqvi and Mushtaq Ahmad had ordered Anjum Naz Sindhu’s release as the prosecution had failed to produce evidence in support of its allegations that his client had blasphemed.

“The judges pointed out irregularities in the police investigation and also the fact that there was no proof to suggest that Sindhu had engaged in any religious discussion with the co-accused,” said the lawyer.

Anjum said that in its verdict, the court had also pointed out the absence of a voice recognition report to prove that the alleged blasphemous remarks were made by Sindhu.

“Although the police had obtained a transcribed form of the alleged blasphemous conversation from the forensic laboratory, they could not authenticate the voices on the recording,” he said, adding that the judges had termed it “a case of no evidence.”

Sindhu, a 65-year-old Catholic owner of a prominent chain of schools in Gujranwala, was sentenced to death on June 27, 2016, following conviction for blasphemy – as were the two men convicted of blackmailing him. Javed Naz, a Christian, and Naz’s Muslim friend Jaffar Ali, were also sentenced to death for concealing or otherwise handling a recording of remarks that allegedly blasphemed Muhammad, the prophet of Islam.

Naz and Ali had told police that Sindhu had committed blasphemy during a speech at Locus Science School last year, which Naz said he recorded on his cell phone, according to the FIR.

Sindhu’s brother, Asif Sindhu, had previously told Morning Star News that Naz, who worked at one of the schools that Anjum Sindhu owned, used the blasphemy law to take vengeance because Sindhu had fired Naz from the school for leaking examination papers.

“Later Naz, with the help of his friend Jaffar Ali, started blackmailing my brother and started demanding extortion by claiming that they had an audio recording in which he had committed blasphemy,” Asif Sindhu said. “They uttered blasphemous words in my brother’s voice to get revenge for taking action against Javed Naz and later started demanding extortion.”

As any unsubstantiated blasphemy accusation can land an accused person in jail for months while awaiting trial under Pakistan’s widely condemned blasphemy statutes, Anjum Sindhu on May 15, 2015 paid 20,000 rupees (US$190) in extortion money to the two men, who then demanded another 50,000 rupees (US$475) from him.

Attorney Arif Goraya, who represented Sindhu during the trial, had pointed out several irregularities in the police investigation during his arguments in court.

“During the proceedings, I repeatedly brought to the court’s notice that there is no direct evidence against my client, and that there are several gaps in the investigation that make the entire process suspicious,” he said.

Goraya had said that the forensic laboratory report notified the court that the lab lacked the equipment to make a 100 percent match of the voice on the audio clip with that of Sindhu. The court thus made its ruling largely on the basis of a transcript obtained from the audio recording, which does not directly incriminate Sindhu, the attorney said.

VOP is on the ground in Thailand helping Pakistani Christians who fled persecution in Pakistan. Please Join hands with us to spread the love of Jesus. Keep us in your prayers as we try to raise the needed funds for the relief mission. If you feel led to help, please consider our mission and donate, today. Go with us to Thailand through your blessings  to share with these dear brothers and sisters who have suffered so much. God bless you and your families.

HELP SAVE THE PERSECUTED

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.

HELP SAVE THE PERSECUTED

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!
You may also send your gift to:

2740 Third St
P.O. Box 122
Trenton, MI. 48183

 

 

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

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.

HELP SAVE THE PERSECUTED

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!
You may also send your gift to:

2740 Third St
P.O. Box 122
Trenton, MI. 48183

 

Mob attacks Christian worshipers in Pakistan

(UCAN) Tension and fear gripped a Christian village in Pakistan’s Punjab province after an attack on worshippers at a Pakistan Gospel Assembly church.

The assault took place at Village 77/4R in Sahiwal district on March 3.

“More than two dozen men carrying sticks forced their way into the church and beat up Christian worshippers,” Pastor Cecil Daniel told ucanews.com.

“Women and children are among those who have been injured in the attack.”

Mubarak Masih, a Christian human rights activist, said police had yet to take action against the attackers.

“Although this was a matter of personal enmity, the attackers found it convenient to enter the church and beat up worshippers,” Masih told ucanews.com.

“The village has around 200 Christian families who are confined to their homes over fear of further violence.”

The attack came a week after supporters of a hard-line Islamist group attacked the minority Christian community in Faisalabad, the second largest city in the eastern province.

Tension began when activists of Tehreek-e-Labaik (TLY) painted the wall of a Christian house adjacent to Good News Church with pro-Islam slogans.

This led to a day-long violent clash between Christians and Muslims with both sides using firearms.

“Police have booked five Christians under anti-terror laws while no action has been taken against TLY activists for instigating the violence,” Masih said.

VOP Note: Please pray for protection and wisdom for our brothers and sisters in Pakistan.

Pakistani Christian jumps out FIA window to escape torture/being forced to commit lewd act

Sajid Masih tortured by Pakistani government authorities

Pakistan – Voice of the Persecuted received news of the injuries and inhumane treatment of Sajid Masih, a Christian, by FIA (Federal Investigation Authority) officers. Sajid is the cousin of Patras Masih who was recently accused of blasphemy by local Muslims in Shahdara, Lahore, an event that caused 800 Christian families to flee the neighborhood where the accused lived. They feared they would be harmed by the angry mob calling for his death (beheading) as they promised to destroy their village unless the accused was handed over to them. Read the report here. In a video interview (translated below), Sajid Masih claimed from his hospital bed that he jumped out of the fourth floor of FIA building because the investigators tortured him and were trying to force him to have sex with his cousin, Patras Masih.

Video translation

They called me to the headquarters. They told me that they wanted to take my statement and check my phone.
They took me to the not audible (maybe washroom). They checked my phone and started beating me there. I asked them, what is my fault. They told me that your only fault is that you are the cousin of the boy. They continued to beat and then told me to curse myself.  My cousin [Patras] cursed himself.

Then they told me take off your cousin’s pants and have sex with him. They quickly took off his clothes. I asked forgiveness from them and told them that he is my brother. When i refused, they were enraged.

I saw the window was open, I rushed towards it and jumped. People kept asking me if i jumped myself. I kept hearing all of it. The person who took me was Khalid Shah and they never found anything on my phone.

What should be enraging is the disgusting treatment of an innocent Christian man by federal authorities. One so frightened that he chose to jump out of a window, 4 stories up!

Please pray for Christians in Pakistan!

UPDATE: FIA authorities deny harsh treatment. A case has been filed against them. see report

800 Christian families fled a Christian neighborhood after blasphemy accusation

Christian residents feared a repeat of several previous instances when Christian neighbourhoods have been set on fire following blasphemy accusations (World Watch Monitor)

(World Watch Monitor) Several Islamic clerics and a few Christian leaders held a press conference at a police station in Lahore, Pakistan, (20 February) to send a message to at least 800 families who fled a Christian neighbourhood in the city after a 20-year-old Christian man was accused of posting blasphemous content on Facebook, causing an angry mob to form.

The press conference was held at the Shahdara Police Station, after which a joint statement was signed calling for Christians to return and live peacefully with their Muslim neighbours, as before. The statement also noted that “the Christian community has guaranteed that they would not interfere in the religious matters of Muslims any further. And neither would any such incident [of disrespect] take place anymore. [Christians] will respect the religion of Muslims and holy places and their religious festivals and they [the leaders] will teach this to the members of their community”.

The mob had (19 February) set [tires] alight and blocked part of the Grand Trunk Road, a main artery in Lahore that connects the city with other major parts of the country, demanding Patras Masih be publicly hanged for posting content alleged to have disrespected the prophet Muhammad.

Lahore is a big metropolitan with a population of more than 15 million, including the largest population of Christians in Pakistan – no less than half a million. Around 2,000 Christian families, including Masih’s, live in the Dhair neighbourhood of Shahdara, a northern suburb of Lahore, and Bishop Emmanuel Masih of God’s Church in Lahore told World Watch Monitor that at least 800 fled to stay with relatives elsewhere, fearing a repeat of several previous instances when Christian neighbourhoods have been set on fire following blasphemy accusations.

Patras Masih had a nominal education and has been working as a cleaner in a bank, where his father, Inderyas, also works as a driver.

Masih’s paternal uncle, Arif, told World Watch Monitor his nephew was friends with both Christians and Muslims. “A few weeks ago, Patras posted a picture in a group of his friends that had both Christian and Muslim members,” he said.

According to the First Information Report (FIR) of the crime, lodged by a man named Muhammad Awais, the allegedly blasphemous content was posted more than a month ago, on 16 January, on a Facebook group named PaglonKiBasti (The Town of Lunatics).

“After seeing this post, I asked Muhammad Siddique [moderator of the group], who immediately phoned the suspect, Patras Masih, and asked him to remove the post. But Patras refused to remove the post, after which the area residents are quite upset and angry,” Awais stated in the FIR.

Patras Masih’s mother, Saima Bibi, told World Watch Monitor that on the evening before the trouble started, Sunday 18 February, three men of Pashtun descent came to her home, showed her son’s picture and inquired if he was home. “Patras’s younger brother told them that he was not home,” she explained. “Then again four boys came inquiring about him. When Patras came home, we told him and he could not make sense of why these people were looking for him.

“Early the next morning [19 February], Patras and his father left for work, where his friend told him on the phone that people were gathering outside, after which the two of them fled while I came back home. The police knocked on the door while I was in the washroom. They left after searching, without finding me. I spent all day in the washroom and at night I went to the second floor of the building and jumped to a neighbour’s house.”

Arif Masih told World Watch Monitor: “People had started gathering around 7am, while I heard about what was happening around 11.30am, when things had started getting worse. I live only few streets away and rushed to the place where people were gathering, while Patras and his father had already fled from home.”

Requesting anonymity, a local pastor from the area said that several people with long beards had gathered and demanded that Patras Masih be handed over to them or else they would set their houses on fire, having brought petrol for this purpose.

When the police arrived, they brought a few clerics with them to negotiate with the mob. The police managed to get the road cleared for traffic in the evening, but the mob continued to demand Masih’s arrest and public hanging.

“In the evening, when the angry mob was getting out of control, we went to the superintendent of police’s office and handed Patras to them,” his uncle explained. “Since then we don’t know what is taking place with him.”

“A huge number of people who were extremely angry had gathered and blocked the road, but thank God that no untoward incident took place and now the situation is under control,” Sub-Inspector Haji Munir, leading the investigation, told World Watch Monitor.

“Patras was told by other members of the Facebook group to delete the post, but he remained adamant, after which this issue arose,” Munir added. “Patras is still under investigation but soon will be sent to jail.”

In recent years, social media has become a thorny issue in Pakistan. YouTube remained blocked from September 2012 until January 2016, while in March last year Facebook was told it would be completely shut down if blasphemous content was not removed. Then in May, a 16-year-old Christian, Nabeel Masih*, was accused of posting a blasphemous picture on Facebook, and is now facing jail.

Punjab Assembly parliamentarian Mary Gill, who signed the statement in Lahore on behalf of the Christian community, told World Watch Monitor the younger generation must understand the sensitivity of such issues while using social media. “Our people [Christians] are illiterate and there have been several such incidents in recent years,” she said. “Due to the sensitivity involved, even Christian politicians fear to handle such incidents for fear of reprisals.”

*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 – the most famous Christian example being Asia Bibi, who has been on death row for blasphemy since 2010.

 

 

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