Wednesday, September 23, 2009

023. Pakistan: Islamic fundamentalists target Christians

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 023 | Wed 23 Sep 2009

By Elizabeth Kendal

Christians in Pakistan are suffering escalating and intensifying persecution. Writing in Pakistan's 'Daily Times' (21 September), commentator Syed Mansoor Hussain said he believed recent attacks on Christian communities are part of a new strategy by Islamic fundamentalist organisations. The Taliban has lost a lot of grassroots support through its widespread killing and repression of Muslims. So now the fundamentalists are inciting their militants to launch Islamic campaigns specifically targeting Christians. This fires up Islamic zeal and keeps the radicalised followers engaged whilst not threatening or offending the general Muslim population. And as Hussain notes, while Islamic apologists 'keep repeating the mantra that Islam is a tolerant religion', too many politicians, police and lawyers are either too intimidated by, or too supportive of, the militants to bring them to justice. So the killings in Islam's name continue with impunity. (See Syed Mansoor Hussain: Looking for justice)

Hussain wrote this piece because of yet another attack against a Christian community in Pakistan's Punjab Province -- the fourth in ten weeks. On 30 June, the Christian community of Bahmani Wala Village was attacked (see RLPB 012, 8 July). Christian communities were then attacked in Korian on 26 July and in Gojra on 1 August (see RLPB 016, 5 Aug). They were all incited by Islamic clerics using false accusations of blasphemy or Qur'an desecration. The cost to the Christian communities has been immense and horrific.

Then on Friday 11 September hundreds of Muslims rioted in Jatheki village near Sialkot city in Punjab Province, responding to incitement from their local mosques. A Muslim woman discovered that her daughter, Hina Asghar, was romantically involved with their neighbour, a Christian boy named Fanish Masih (19). Enraged, she told her imam that Fanish had desecrated Hina's Qur'an. During Friday prayers, the imam called upon Muslims to punish the Christians. In the ensuing pogrom against the Christian community, many members were stripped and severely beaten. The local Protestant Calvary Church was torched and the police stood by as the senior pastor was mercilessly bashed.

Police arrested Fanish the next day. On Sunday 13 September some 600 Muslim women demonstrated in Sialkot to refute the notion that a Muslim woman could ever fall in love with a Christian man. (Note: the Qur'an does not permit Muslims to have friendships with Jews, Christians or any other unbelievers -- e.g. Sura 5:51). On 14 September Fanish was relocated to a prison in Sialkot city where the next day the prison superintendent reported that Masih had 'committed suicide'. Though Fanish Masih is alleged to have hanged himself, his broken ribs and the signs of torture all over his body led Christians to charge that he was murdered. Thousands turned out for the funeral. Clashes erupted when mourners sought to take Fanish's body home to Jatheki village, the police responding with batons, tear gas and live ammunition, wounding three. Around 100 Christians were arrested. Whilst the official autopsy results have not yet been released, the two Christian doctors who observed it have publicly stated they believe Fanish was tortured to death.

Religious freedom advocates are lobbying for the repeal of the Blasphemy Law. Whilst that would be right and just, its repeal will not save Pakistani Christians from deadly Islamic hatred. In fact, it has usually been the case that repealing Islamic laws leads to massacres as hate-filled Islamic fundamentalists will kill Christians rather than yield anything to them.


* draw all Pakistani Christians into his holy presence (i.e. sanctuary -- Isaiah 8:13,14a) where they will receive comfort, peace and divine strength (Isaiah 40:27-31). 'When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.' (Psalm 56:3 ESV)

* frustrate the way of the wicked (Psalm 146:9) and rescue his children from the hands of their persecutors (Psalm 31:15).

* bring a spirit of shame on Pakistan about the way their vulnerable Christian minority is being treated and many Muslims will take a moral stand against the lawlessness and violence.

* bring a spirit of enlightenment to Pakistan so that, despite widespread radicalisation, many Muslims will grasp that Islam is clearly not the 'tolerant religion' its apologists proclaim.

* inspire many disillusioned Muslims to turn to Jesus Christ; may it be as was said of the Apostle Paul, 'He who used to persecute us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.' (Galatians 1:23 ESV)



In the fourth anti-Christian pogrom in Punjab Province in 10 weeks, Muslims rioted against the Christian community in Jatheki town on 11 September. Once again it was incited by Islamic clerics using a false accusation of Qur'an desecration. However, the real reason was a Muslim woman's anger that her daughter was romantically involved with a Christian neighbour, Fanish Masih (19). After the rioting Muslims had beaten many Christians and torched the local Protestant Calvary Church, the police arrested Fanish. On 15 September it was reported that Fanish had 'committed suicide' in prison. However, Fanish's ribs were broken and there were signs of torture all over his body. The two Christian doctors who observed the official autopsy have stated they believe Fanish was tortured to death. Please pray for Pakistan's besieged Christians.