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
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.