Pakistani Church Burned by Muslims

Bishop Says Religion Is Being Misused

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JAITHIKEY, Pakistan, SEPT. 15, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Christians were forced to flee for their lives as a Muslim mob set fire to their Church and two adjoining homes in the village of Jaithikey on Friday.



Aid to the Church in Need reported today that this violence was sparked by a Muslim mother who was angered at her 18-year-old daughter's romantic relationship with a Christian classmate.

The woman, who was determined to break up the three-year relationship, allegedly ripped a page out of a book containing verses of the Quran, and threw the pages down in front of the young man's house.

Then, she went to the local Muslim authorities and accused the youth of desecrating the sacred book of Islam, in violation of Pakistan's blasphemy laws.

The aid agency noted that the country's penal code gives life imprisonment as the maximum sentence for desecrating the Quran.

The violence against the Christians was thus interpreted as an act of revenge in response to this accusation.

A mob armed with bricks, stones and sticks poured kerosene on the church before lighting it aflame and desecrating it.

They also attacked two Christian homes next to the church and threatened to kill residents of village, which is located in the Sialkot district of the Punjab province.

Taking refuge

Father Andrew Nisari, vicar general of the Archdiocese of Lahore, where the village is located, told the aid agency, "All the priests told the Christians to run away from the village otherwise the mob would kill everybody."

These Christians are currently taking refuge in other towns. The 19-year-old man who was accused of the crime was taken to prison during the police investigation.

Father Nisari stated: "People are very frightened and upset by what has happened.

"We are actually glad that the 19-year-old boy is in jail at the moment -- at least there he will be safe. It means he won't be killed by the fanatic Muslims."

However, AsiaNews reported today that the young man, named Fanish, was executed Monday night in prison.

This morning, the youth's body was found lifeless with signs of torture on it.

This attack, the fourth of its kind in three months, has motivated the aid agency and other Christian leaders in Pakistan to call for the repealing of the country's blasphemy laws.

Continued attacks

Another incident, reported today, took place Saturday when a Muslim mob attacked the home of a 40-year-old Christian man named Lawrence, who was accused of blasphemy.

After attacking the man's house in Ghaziabad, in Karachi, they went after other Christians and tried to storm the Catholic Church. Police intervened, and Lawrence was able to safely go into hiding.

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari condemned the attacks and pledged government funds to repair the church.

Father Nisari stated: "Although the church is still standing, it is completely burnt inside -- the altar, the statues, the pews, the priest's chair, Bibles and other religious books. The whole church is now totally unusable."

He continued: "The laws hand people -- Muslims in particular -- an invisible sword enabling them to take revenge on anybody they like.

"This case shows that religion is being misused in our country and that it is very necessary that the blasphemy laws be repealed."

The priest stated: "I urge all the Christians in the world to pray for us who are persecuted in Pakistan. We need your prayers right now."

The aid agency is sponsoring a Pakistani prelate, Bishop Joseph Coutts of Faisalabad, to come to the United Kingdom and give an Oct. 17 address at London's Westminster Cathedral.