07/03/2009, 00.00
PAKISTAN

Faisalabad, a Christian tortured and detained on false charges of blasphemy

by Qaiser Felix
He is accused of having burned pages of the Koran. Charges invented by Muslims in the area, envious of the successful business done by the shop owned by the couple. Director of the Commission for Interreligious Dialogue warns of a "wave of anti-Christian extremism" in the country.

Faisalabad (AsiaNews) - Tortured at length by a group of Muslims, then arrested by police on charges – perfectly fabricated- that he had burned pages of the Koran. This is what happened last July1st  to Imran Masih, a young Christian from Hajwary, Faisalabad district, yet another victim of blasphemy. For the director of the Commission for Interreligious Dialogue "a new wave of anti-Christian extremism" has started.

Father Yousaf Yaqub, of the parish of Hajwary confirmed to AsiaNews that the allegations "are totally invented" and the reasons for the attack originate from "business questions." The shop belonging to the young Christian’s family, in fact, is better located and has higher revenues than others in the area. For fear of further attacks by extremists, the relatives of Masih fled to a secret hiding place.

"Imran was cleaning his fruit and vegetable shop –Fr. Yaqub reports – then he collected waste paper and burned it in the street, a common practice in the area. " The owner of a nearby shop accused the Christian of burning pages of the Koran, calling the attention of other Muslims. Before long, a crowd began to beat and torture the young man, who was only saved by police intervention. The testimony of another Muslim also favored the opening an investigation against Masih.

The news of his arrest and spread quickly through the various mosques in the city. The prison where the young Christian was being held was besieged by thousands of furious extremists, who called for his death. The crowd blocked the main roads and burned tires

Fr. Yousaf said that Christians and Muslims have lived in a peaceful way for decades in that area and had never registered incidents of this nature. Poverty, envy in business affairs and the economic crisis may have exacerbated tensions, causing confessional hatred.

 

Father Aftab James Paul, director of the diocese of Faisalabad’s Commission for Interreligious Dialogue, announced a meeting in the curia between Muslims, Catholics and Protestants in an attempt to dissolve the tension. According to Fr. Paul the recent attacks are a sign of "a new wave of anti-Christian extremism" in the country.

 
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