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  • » 05/07/2010, 00.00

    PAKISTAN

    Lahore: Christians accused of blasphemy forced to leave their homes



    Five boys are accused of "desecrating" a banner that was inscribed with Qur‘anic verses. To avoid trial and prevent confessional tensions, all five leave their homes. On 26 May, Martha Bibi goes on trial. She is 45-year-old mother of six accused of defaming the Prophet Muhammad. She could get the death penalty.

    Lahore (AsiaNews) – Five boys accused under Pakistan’s infamous blasphemy law have had to leave home in Lahore’s Green Town area to avoid violence by Muslim extremists. A local court has set 26 May as the trial date for a Christian woman, Martha Bibi, accused of blasphemy. If convicted she could face the death penalty.

    Sohail Johnson, coordinator of Sharing Life Ministry Pakistan (SLMP), told Assist News Service (ANS) that “five Christian boys had to leave their homes” in the Green Town area of Lahore or they would be brought up on blasphemy charges.

    They five are Shoaib Ilyas, Chaman Ashraf, Ashar Masih, Neeta Masih and Sunny and have become scapegoats for rising tensions between the Muslim majority and the Christian community.

    They are accused of “desecrating” a banner inscribed with Qur‘anic verses

    According to SLMP, everything goes back to 30 April. On that day, some Christian boys were standing near an electric pole when a banner, inscribed with Islamic verses, fell down due to heavy wind. Shoaib, one of the accused, picked it up and handed it to a Muslim man who later accused Shoaib and local Christians of desecrating the banner.

    In order to defuse the situation and avoid a possible accusation of blasphemy against the boys (which is punished by life in prison or the death penalty), an agreement was brokered whereby the five would leave the area. This in turn would secure reconciliation between Christians and Muslims.

    In the meantime, a court in Lahore set the trial date for Martha Bibi, a 45-yra-old Christian married woman, mother of six. She is being tried under Article 295-C of the Pakistani Criminal Code, the so-called ‘blasphemy law’, for offending the Prophet Muhammad.

    The episode that led to the charges dates back to 22 January 2007. Christian sources said the reason for the accusation lays in unpaid bills by a Muslim contractor for supplies she and her husband, a bricklayer, provided to a construction site.

    Afraid that she might be attacked by Muslim extremists, she covered her face with a scarf in a previous court hearing.

    Sohail Johnson is closely following the proceedings, and urging Christians around the world to pray for Martha’s protection and “her deliverance from the blasphemy trial."

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    See also

    09/11/2010 PAKISTAN
    Punjab: Christian woman sentenced to death for blasphemy
    For the first time, a woman is sentenced to death in Pakistan for this kind of “offence”. The blasphemy law was introduced in 1986 by then Pakistani dictator Zia-ul Haq and since then it has become a tool for discrimination and violence. Part of the Pakistan Penal Code, the law imposes life in prison for defiling the Qur’an and death for insulting Muhammad.

    07/05/2007 PAKISTAN
    Martha Bibi, Christian baselessly accused of blasphemy, is released
    Fazal-e-Miran, judge of the Lahore High Court, ordered that the woman be released on bail. Physically weakened, she has not stopped thanking God for the triumph of justice. Activists have called once again for the abolition of the blasphemy law.

    12/02/2007 PAKISTAN
    Christian woman accused of blasphemy without evidence still in prison
    Martha Bibi, arrested on January 22, is in Kasur district prison. Police has not yet started their investigations whilst her family is still in hiding for fear of attacks by extremists.

    06/12/2010 PAKISTAN
    Lahore High Court issues stay order in Asia Bibi’s appeal against blasphemy sentence
    A new order by the High Court makes it harder to discuss the controversial legislation and prevents the government from issuing a pardon for the convicted Christian woman. The appeal date against her death sentence has not yet been decided.

    16/10/2014 PAKISTAN
    Asia Bibi's sentence is heart breaking, may the world pray for her, says Islamabad bishop
    After five postponements, the High Court upholds the death penalty for the Christian woman, who has become a symbol of the fight against blasphemy. Her lawyers vow to take her case to the Supreme Court. Heartbroken by the sentence, Islamabad bishop calls for prayers. On Sunday, events are being organised across the country to show solidarity towards Asia Bibi.



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