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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
IRAQ-ITALY
"Adopt a Christian from Mosul," the thanks of the Patriarch Louis Sako; the concerns of the Bishop of Kurdistan
by Bernardo CervelleraThe head of the Chaldean Church is grateful for the AsiaNews campaign and hopes that "this chain of solidarity will reach far and wide”. Helping refugees to remain in Iraq. But many want to flee abroad. The bishop of Amadiyah where thousands of displaced people have found haven in churches and homes: We also help the Arabs (Muslims), and Yazidis, for free and without looking at our confessional differences.
ITALY - IRAQ
"Adopt a Christian from Mosul" to respond directly to Iraq's emergencyAsiaNews is launching a fundraiser to support Christians targeted by the Islamic State, thus responding to a request by the Patriarch of Baghdad and Pope Francis's urgent appeal "to guarantee all necessary assistance - especially the most urgently needed aid - to the great multitude of people who have been driven from their homes, whose fate depends entirely on the solidarity of others." More than 100,000 people have been forced to flee their homes leaving everything behind and now have nothing to live on. To help them, five euros a day are enough. The funds raised will be sent to the Patriarchate of Baghdad, which will distribute them according to the needs of each family.
CHINA - VATICAN
Wenzhou bishop and priests slam government's campaign against crosses and churches in Zhejiang
by Eugenia ZhangFor Mgr Vincent Zhu Weifang, from the official Church, the campaign of destruction is increasing social instability. It is real persecution against the Christian faith. The bishop apologises for failing to intervene sooner. He was hoping that the campaign would end quickly. Catholics and Protestants suffer injuries as they attempt to defend their sacred buildings. For priests in Wenzhou, the campaign is unfair and touches buildings that have all the right papers. Such "stupid acts" by the government are undermining social harmony.

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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