03/11/2013, 00.00
PAKISTAN

Pakistan: Christians and Muslims protest against Lahore arson attack

by Shafique Khokhar
The final toll is 178 homes destroyed. In Karachi and Lahore Christian schools closed as a sign of respect. In Faisalabad, thousands of people demonstrate against the violent episode. Muslim activists for human rights: "The police knew but did nothing. Our political leaders have to leave."

Islamabad (AsiaNews) - Pakistani Christians and Muslims have joined together in their condemnation of the arson attack on a Christian neighborhood of Lahore, where on March 9 last 178 houses were razed to the ground. As a sign of respect, today the Christian schools of Lahore and Karachi will remain closed for the entire day. Yesterday thousands of people in Faisalabad - including women, children, priests, nuns and Muslim activists - organized a sit-in in the main street of the city, which ended peacefully with a general prayer.

Meanwhile, the situation in the country remains tense. In Islamabad some people attacked Christians, but without setting fire to their homes.

The fire at Lahore's Joseph Colony came after the arrest for blasphemy - reported a day before - by a young Christian accused of insulting the Prophet Muhammad by a local barber.

Ameena Zaman, a Muslim activist for human rights, says that "the police had ordered the Christians of Joseph Colony to evacuate their homes 12 hours before the accident. If the police knew that there would be an attack, why did they do nothing to save the Christians? ".

For Fr. Bonnie Mendes, the Lahore attack "unequivocally shows the evil intentions that lie behind accusations of blasphemy. This was a premeditated way to threaten, destroy and loot the property of Christians, and possibly even kill them."

According to Zaman Khan, a Muslim activist, "what happened confirms that our leaders do not consider religious minorities equal citizens of Pakistan. We must fight against this ideology that drives people to attack their neighbor" only because they are of another religion.

Another Muslim of the same opinion is Arif Ayyaz who adds "it is time to speak out against the ineligibility of our politicians." Pakistan will vote in general elections between April and May this year.

 

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