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» 09/12/2009
PAKISTAN
Punjab, Muslim extremists burn church over alleged blasphemy case
by Fareed Khan
The call to hunt Christians launched at local mosque after the Friday prayers. The mob stormed and set fire to the church, ransacked two houses. Muslims accuse a young Christian had desecrated the Koran. In reality the young man is involved with a Muslim girl.

Sialkot (AsiaNews) - A church burnt by a mob of angry Muslims, who attacked Christians for a new - alleged - case of blasphemy. This is what happened yesterday afternoon in a village in Punjab, Pakistan, where the Christian community was targeted by Islamic extremists.

"The extremists were protesting against the desecration of the Quran by a young Christian from the village" Father Emmanuel Yousaf Mani, director of the Catholic Churches National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP) refers to AsiaNews, "that is why they set fire to the church". The priest, who heard the eye witness accounts of the inhabitants, adds that "the place of worship is used by Catholics and Protestants".  

NCJP sources report that yesterday, at about 12:30 local time, a Muslim mob gathered round the village church in Jaithikey, not far from the city of Samberial in the district of Sialkot (Punjab). They first damaged the building, then set it on fire. The extremists also looted two houses adjoining the church.

According to preliminary reports, the real cause of tension is a relationship between a twenty year old Christian, whose name is Fanish, and a Muslim girl. The young man was accused of having "provoked" the girl and "throwing away the Koran [the girl] had in her hands".  

"Muslims can not tolerate a Muslim girl falling in love with a Christian," says father Mani, confirming the news of the young man’s arrest this morning by police officers. "The authorities - adds the priest – will not allow access to journalists, to verify the events firsthand".

A statement released by NCJP explains that "The tense situation precipitated following the end of Friday prayers," when a call to action "to give a lesson to the Christians" was launched from the mosque.  Following the announcement, at least 35 families left the village for security reasons; others decided to remain in their homes anyway.  

The police reached the village, while the crowd of Muslims gathered, wiping themselves up into a frenzy over the  - alleged - case of desecration of the Koran. In the evening, the extremists were driven from the homes of Christian villagers, but hundreds remained in the area, under police surveillance.

Father Emmanuel Yousaf Mani, NCJP national director, Kamran Michael, the Provincial Minister for Human Rights and Minorities and Nelson Azeem, a member of the National Assembly (the parliament of Pakistan) arrived in Samerial and, in close contact with local government and police, are following the evolution of events.  

After the attack on Gojra in early August, in which seven people were killed, there is a real risk of a new massacre against the Christian community in the name of the blasphemy law.


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See also
09/18/2009 PAKISTAN
Governor of Punjab; the law on blasphemy should be abolished
by Fareed Khan
09/17/2009 PAKISTAN
Collusion between police and extremists cause of deaths in judicial custody, Pakistani NGO says
by Fareed Khan
02/04/2005 PAKISTAN
New cases of violence and torture against Pakistani Christians
12/10/2004 PAKISTAN – HUMAN RIGHTS
Religious minorities, persecuted and marginalised
by Qaiser Felix
05/11/2005 PAKISTAN
Christians remember Bishop Joseph's sacrifice

Editor's choices
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ITALY - IRAQ
"Adopt a Christian from Mosul" to respond directly to Iraq's emergencyAsiaNews is launching a fundraiser to support Christians targeted by the Islamic State, thus responding to a request by the Patriarch of Baghdad and Pope Francis's urgent appeal "to guarantee all necessary assistance - especially the most urgently needed aid - to the great multitude of people who have been driven from their homes, whose fate depends entirely on the solidarity of others." More than 100,000 people have been forced to flee their homes leaving everything behind and now have nothing to live on. To help them, five euros a day are enough. The funds raised will be sent to the Patriarchate of Baghdad, which will distribute them according to the needs of each family.
CHINA - VATICAN
Wenzhou bishop and priests slam government's campaign against crosses and churches in Zhejiang
by Eugenia ZhangFor Mgr Vincent Zhu Weifang, from the official Church, the campaign of destruction is increasing social instability. It is real persecution against the Christian faith. The bishop apologises for failing to intervene sooner. He was hoping that the campaign would end quickly. Catholics and Protestants suffer injuries as they attempt to defend their sacred buildings. For priests in Wenzhou, the campaign is unfair and touches buildings that have all the right papers. Such "stupid acts" by the government are undermining social harmony.

Dossier
by Giulio Aleni / (a cura di) Gianni Criveller
pp. 176
by Lazzarotto Angelo S.
pp. 528
by Bernardo Cervellera
pp. 240
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