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» 04/10/2007
PAKISTAN
A truly Passion-like Easter in Toba Tek Singh
by Qaiser Felix
Local Christians celebrate Holy Week with faith and religious fervour despite violent attacks against the community and false blasphemy charges against some of its members. A brother of one of the alleged blasphemers is arrested without charges.

Toba Tek Singh (AsiaNews) – Hurt by false charges of blasphemy levelled by some Muslim extremists against some of its co-religionists, Pakistan’s Christians experienced a  Passion-like Easter this year, especially the residents of Toba Tek Singh, “whose suffering and faith could be seen in their faces,” this according to Fr Bonnie Mendes, director of the Human Development Centre (HDC), a local Catholic NGO, who talked to AsiaNews about Easter celebrations in one of the country’s Catholic communities most affected by the growing threat of Islamic extremism.

“The atmosphere is particularly tense in Toba Tek Singh village,” Father Mendes said. “Just last week, after five people were charged under the blasphemy law [one arrested, four in hiding], Shaukat Masih, the brother of the one who was arrested was also detained without charges. For the family this is an act of intimidation to force local Christians to hand the other alleged blasphemers over to the authorities.”

“Shaukat is not even named in the report filed by police. It is not possible for them to act like this. [By contrast,] we have pressed charges against a mob that attacked our property and nothing has been for us,” said Atif Jamil, HDC deputy director.

Beside the blasphemy charges Toba Tek Singh Christians were also victims of a violent attack. This “happened during Holy Week,” Jamil said. “Everyone wants respect for their religion but no one showed any respect for our community during one of the holiest times in Christianity.” And yet “despite our community’s fear, we participated with fervour to Holy Week masses. The police patrolled the churches during Easter and this in some ways helped us.”

Father Mendes explained that Easter “is a time of suffering but also of great joy, quite appropriate for what we are going through. It is a time to remember the Passion and Death of Christ, but also a time followed by the resurrection. Here in Toba Tek Singh we can see the face of our suffering Saviour, but let us hope that we, too, can celebrate our own resurrection.”

Disinformation largely surrounds the blasphemy question. “In the Sangla Hill case [where a Muslim mob was incited by false blasphemy charges to attack and destroy a Christian village], local media focus on alleged blasphemers who desecrated the Qur’an but they never talk about attacks against us,” said the priest.

In a press release, Shahbaz Bhatti, head of the All Pakistan Minorities Alliance, lamented that the blasphemy law has “become a tool to settle personal scores. The problem is that the law is being used by truly extremist gangs who use it as a blunt instrument to persecute Christians and other Pakistani minorities. It should be removed from the Penal Code.”


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See also
11/15/2005 PAKISTAN
Christian leaders urge Pakistan president to repeal blasphemy law
11/16/2005 PAKISTAN
Punjab Christians urge government to visit their destroyed churches
by Qaiser Felix
01/09/2006 PAKISTAN
"Government must intervene as blasphemy laws split country"
by Peter Jacob
12/16/2005 PAKISTAN
Sangla Hill prepares for Christmas in Catholic Church destroyed by Muslims
11/24/2005 PAKISTAN
Archbishop of Canterbury: "Musharraf should review blasphemy law"

Editor's choices
VATICAN
Pope: I am with the persecuted Christians of Mosul and the Middle East "May the God of peace inspire in all a genuine desire for dialogue and reconciliation. Violence is never defeated with violence. Violence is defeated with peace." At the Sunday Angelus Francis comments on the parable of the wheat and the weeds. God is "patient" He knows "the same weeds in the end, may become good wheat". But "at the time of the harvest, that is, of judgment, the reapers will execute the order of the master separating the weeds to be burned".
CHINA - VATICAN
Beijing, seminarians desert graduation ceremony: We will not celebrate Mass with illegitimate bishops The rector of the seminary is the illegitimate bishop Joseph Ma Yinglin: Students refuse to concelebrate with him and reject Msgr. Fang Xingyao, who has participated in several illegal episcopal ordinations. The directors close the year without awarding diplomas and send students home: rumors of some courses being "suspended" in September. The precedent of 2000, when 130 young students chose fidelity to the Pope over compromise with the government.
HONG KONG-CHINA-VATICAN
Card Zen: Religious freedom and civil liberties are united, for China and Hong Kong
by Bernardo CervelleraA wide ranging conversation with the bishop emeritus of Hong Kong: the courage of Msgr. Ma Daqin, who sent a message to Pope Francis; underground Catholics are also prepared to be arrested; suspicions about Beijing’s sincerity towards possible dialogue with the Holy See. And in Hong Kong, the march for a referendum on democracy; support for "Occupy Central"; the fear of the government and arrests. Card. Zen reaffirms that religious freedom and civil liberties go hand in hand.

Dossier
by Giulio Aleni / (a cura di) Gianni Criveller
pp. 176
by Lazzarotto Angelo S.
pp. 528
by Bernardo Cervellera
pp. 240
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