03/09/2013, 00.00
PAKISTAN

Lahore, more than 100 Christian homes burned over blasphemy charge

Jibran Khan
The attack followed altercation between a young Christian and a Islamic barber: the Muslim insulted Christianity and then reported the boy for blasphemy. The mob looted, stoned, doused in acid and then burned the Christian settlement. Local imam: "We'll find the Christian and kill him."

Lahore (AsiaNews) - This morning, an angry mob set fire to over 100 homes in the Joseph Colony Christian settlement, near Badami Bah (Lahore). Residents were forced to flee and at least 35 people were injured. The attack resulted from an accusation of blasphemy registered against one of the settlement residents, Sawan Masih, who yesterday afternoon had an altercation with a Muslim.

According to initial reports, the 26 year old Christian went to the Islamic barber for a haircut, but the store owner, Imran Shahid, refused to serve him. A heated discussion arose between the two, and the Muslim reportedly used offensive words about Christianity.

Together with other people, Shahid then went to the nearby police station, the group recorded a charge of blasphemy against Masih (art.295C), arguing that the young man was drunk and had insulted the Prophet Muhammad. Shortly after, the police arrested the Christian. The maximum penalty under that law is life imprisonment.

The anger of the Islamic community did not subside however, and this morning a large group of people ransacked Joseph Colony, then set fire to the homes. "We were working like every day - Salamat Masih, a resident of the settlement told AsiaNews - when we started to hear a noise, and suddenly a wall of people fell upon the colony. They threw acid and stoned our houses, then set them on fire. The authorities intervened only when everything was destroyed". The local imam said Sawan will be killed when found.

Human rights associations, such as Masihi Foundation and Life for All rushed to the scene  to help the victims. For Msgr. Rufin Anthony, bishop of Islamabad-Rawalpindi, "it is very sad to see that minorities in Pakistan are not safe and are targeted for their religion. It is vital that we work for national harmony.

 

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