04/15/2011, 00.00
PAKISTAN

Multan: threats against Christian nurse for condemning Qur‘an burning and church attacks

Jibran Khan
Waris Masih and his family have been forced to flee their home. He strongly condemned attacks against both Islam and Christianity. By contrast, for his Muslim colleagues, burning churches and Bibles is legitimate. Pakistani clergyman urges the West to think about the consequences of its actions. Seven incidents of anti-Christian violence follow the burning of a copy of the Qur‘an.
Lahore (AsiaNews) – Pakistan’s Christian community continues to be the object of intimidation and threats as well as abuse and harassment on the workplace. The latest victim is Waris Masih, a male nurse in Multan, a city in Punjab who was assaulted at work for slamming both the burning of a copy of the Qur‘an in Florida (United States) and attacks against churches in Pakistan. Since 20 March, at least seven acts of violence have been perpetrated against Christians and their places of worship, in a country where extremists are riding a wave of interfaith hatred.

In the past few weeks, health care workers at the Multan Development Authority have been involved in heated arguments. Waris Masih, a Christian male nurse, condemned the burning of the Qur‘an in Florida, but he also condemned attacks against churches in Pakistan. His views led to a furious debate with his colleagues who hailed attacks against Christian places of worship and the desecration of a Bible on 8 April by one Akhtar Hussain, 24, in front of the Saint Anthony’s Catholic Church.

On Tuesday, following another fight with Masih, his boss attacked the Christian health care worker and then threatened him. The next day, a group of fanatics stopped Masih, beat him up and told him to leave town or he would receive exemplary punishment.

After going home, he found out that his family had also been threatened. That night, Masih and his family left and their whereabouts have been unknown for the past two days.

The case of the Christian nurse is the seventh example of recent anti-Christian violence. The escalation started when Rev Wayne Sapp burnt a copy of the Qur‘an under the supervision of Evangelical preacher Terry Jones on 20 March in Florida. Christian leaders in Pakistan and India strongly condemned the action several times because it was carried out by an American who had nothing to do with Pakistani Christians. Nevertheless, the reaction among Muslim fundamentalists was swift; in a few days, they attacked three churches and killed two people.

Similarly, workplace discrimination is commonplace in Pakistan. Last month sanitation workers in Lahore asked for some time off to mark Lent, the way Muslims do during the month of Ramadan. The deputy director of sanitation responded by attacking them and increasing their workload from eight to ten hours. On 9 April, a Lutheran church in Mardan, in Khyber province, was attacked with damages to the building. On one was injured.

“The growing hatred towards Christians has become a serious problem in Pakistan,” said Fr Joseph Xavier speaking to AsiaNews. Burning the Qur‘an added fuel to the fire.

“Even though Christians strongly condemned the act, they are seen as agents of the US government, which is something totally wrong,” the priest said.

“We have condemned Terry Jones’ actions on several occasion,” he added. However, the West should “think twice before acting” since “innocent Christians pay the consequences of their actions”.

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