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» 04/10/2007 17:15
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
SYRIA
I will miss you Fr Frans, you inspired us all, says Syrian Jesuit
by Tony Homsy*A young priest from the Society of Jesus remembers the life and work of Fr Frans van der Lugt, who was killed in Homs after he refused to abandon residents beleaguered by hunger and war. "He gave and continues to give everything for the Church, Syria, and peace. His story and qualities made him an exceptional missionary and witness to the Gospel." Reprinted courtesy of 'The Jesuit Post'.
FRANCE - IRAQ
Chaldean Patriarch on the uncertain future of eastern Christians, a bridge between the West and Islam
by Mar Louis Raphael I SakoThe wars in Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan have made things worse for their peoples, especially minorities. As Western policies have been a failure, fundamentalism has grown with the Arab Spring losing out to extremism. Muslim authorities have a role in protecting rights and religious freedom. The presence of Christians in the Middle East is crucial for Muslims.
CHINA - EUROPEAN UNION
Xi Jinping returns home full of deals and silence
by Bernardo CervelleraThe Chinese president signed agreements worth tens of billions of Euros in France, Germany, the Netherlands, and Belgium. He also stayed clear of any press conference. At the College of Europe in Bruges, he presented his dream of a new trillion-dollar Silk Road. Yet, he also made it clear that at home, the monopoly of power stays with the Party, squashing any dream for political reform in China. On the Internet, netizens disagree with him.

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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