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  • » 11/21/2011, 00.00

    PAKISTAN

    Faisalabad: accused of blasphemy, woman freed thanks to help from Christians and Muslims

    Shafique S. Khokhar

    Catholic priest expresses gratitude to Muslim community for conducting “an in-depth investigation” before condemning the Christian woman. He hopes that “a culture of peace and religious harmony” will always prevail. The accused in the case after was charged under the black law over a legal dispute.
    Faisalabad (AsiaNews) – Christians are grateful to the Muslim community for conducting an “in-depth investigation” before they would condemn someone for blasphemy, a crime punishable with death or life in prison in Pakistan. Thus, they have prevented an “untoward incident over a sensitive issue,” said Fr Naveed Arif, a priest at the Holy Rosary Catholic Church in Faisalabad. Speaking to AsiaNews, he could not hide his satisfaction over the outcome of the case, which he describes as “an example in inter-confessional harmony” with Islam.

    The case involved a Christian woman, Agnes Bibi, who was accused of defaming the name of the prophet Muhammad. Arrested for blasphemy, she had the original accusation dismissed and the case against her reduced to a lower charge. This allowed her to apply and get bail. “I hope a culture of peace and religious harmony prevails whenever controversies arise in Pakistan,” the priest said, “because Christianity teaches us peace and harmony and is against intolerance and violence.”

    Agnes Bibi (pictured), 50, is from Abin-e-Mariam Colony, Faisalabad. In order to undermine the position of Christians in a property dispute with Muslims, she was accused of blasphemy. On 16 February 2011, a complaint was failed against her and she was taken into custody three days later following an interrogation by a magistrate.

    An in-depth investigation began on 5 March. After months of work and a number of depositions, the original charge was changed from blasphemy to that of “Promoting enmity between different groups” under Article 153-A of the Pakistan Penal Code.

    Agnes Bibi told AsiaNews that in prison she prayed for her release, and that she was happy the judge granted her bail.

    Her husband, Bashir Masih, 52, said that he had to take out a loan to pay for the bail imposed by the judge. “My wife is very sick and I have to raise money for her medical treatment,” he added.
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    See also

    05/05/2011 PAKISTAN
    Long-term “surgical intervention” needed in Pakistan, Paul Bhatti says
    Special advisor talks to AsiaNews about his first weeks working with the ministry of his slain brother. Interfaith meetings and education to promote confessional coexistence are his goals. As Minority Affairs minister, the government appoints a Muslim who says, he has “strong ties” with minorities, and pledges to work for everyone’s security.

    03/03/2011 PAKISTAN
    Punjab: Christians fear more massacres after churches and tombs are desecrated
    Kot Addu’s Christian community is facing more wrongdoings by local landlords who grabbed Christian-owned fields and shops with the complicity of local police and officials. Christian symbols are desecrated but the blasphemy law is not applied in this case. Local authorities say accusations are all made up but fail to provide legal backing for grabbing Christian property.

    12/10/2004 PAKISTAN
    Violence against the mentally disabled accused of blasphemy

    Christian physicians and lawyers say that Islam is being used to discriminate against disabled people.



    10/12/2004 PAKISTAN – HUMAN RIGHTS
    Religious minorities, persecuted and marginalised

    Non-Muslims are marginalised from the country's political and social life despite guarantees for equal rights and obligations under the 1947 constitution.



    03/07/2009 PAKISTAN
    Faisalabad, a Christian tortured and detained on false charges of blasphemy
    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.



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