12/19/2008, 00.00
PAKISTAN

Islamic threats in church: bible burned, appeal to conversion

by Qaiser Felix
The sacrilege took place two days ago, in a small village of the diocese of Faisalabad. Many families of Muslims, who are in the majority, are supporting the Christians. The priest asks the faithful to remain "calm and peaceful," in imitation of Jesus.

Faisalabad (AsiaNews) - Desecration at the church of St. Paul in the village ‘Chak 77-RB’, ‘Lohekay’, about 30 kilometers from Faisalabad: on December 17, suspects burned a bible and other sacred texts, leaving a letter threatening Christians that they will "burn in the fire of hell" if they do not convert to Islam.

Pervez Masih tells AsiaNews that on that day, he and others were whitewashing and decorating the little church for Christmas. They stopped at noon for lunch, leaving the church open. When they returned, they found the bible and other sacred texts reduced to ashes, and a handwritten letter telling them to convert to Islam if they wanted to "live in peace" and avoid hell. In Pakistan, there is significant controversy over the law on blasphemy, condemning even to death those who offend the sacred book of Islam, the Qur'an. But nothing is done against blasphemous acts toward the books of other religions.

Fr. Yagoob Yousaf arrived in the village that same evening, having been told about the sacrilege. He celebrated Mass in the church (in the photo), and in the homily, he condemned the sacrilege and the threats, and told the faithful to remain calm and peaceful and not to be afraid, because the police have promised the highest vigilance. He said that Christ preached love and peace, and the government would see to guaranteeing security for the Christians for the Holy Nativity. In recent years, at Christmas, there have been attacks against Catholic and Protestant churches. Often the Christmas celebrations have taken place under police protection.

He observes that "this is a high holy season for all Christians and they are preparing themselves for Christmas but such type of incidents are creating fear and is a move to disturb Christians in the season of Advent."

Most of the people in the village are Muslim, and there are between 50 and 70 Christian families. The church is used by Catholics and Protestants, without conflict. When they became aware of the sacrilege, many Muslims went to the church together with the Christians. Now the police are investigating the "suspects" for the crime of blasphemy.

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