Faisalabad: young Muslim arrested for profaning statue of the Virgin
by Shafique Khokhar
Sabar Shah, 26, broke the glass cover with stones and destroyed the religious symbol. The police stopped him and he is now in jail, awaiting trial. Anger and dismay among the Christians of the city. The pastor speaks of "hurt feelings" and calls for a fair trial. Vicar of Faisalabad extremists inciting religious hatred.

Faisalabad (AsiaNews) - A scarred face, with compassionate eyes, the pieces, scattered everywhere, along with shattered glass. The back of the tunic is still standing, with the base attached to the bricks that surround the grotto. This i show the faithful found the statue of  Our Lady belonging to a church in Faisalabad (Punjab), targeted by a Muslim fanatic who reduced it to a pile of debris. And the image (photo) supplies the sense of frustration and helplessness of a religious minority affected even in its most cherished and sacred symbols like the Virgin Mary, a figure also honoured and respected even in the Islamic tradition.

At 10 in the evening of 30 November, the 26-year old Muslim Sabar Shah, son of Abid Shah, a resident of Chak Jumra, Faisalabad district, desecrated the grotto and destroyed a statue of the Virgin Mary, attacking her with stones. It was inside a glass case, within a brick wall at the Catholic Church of St. Pius. The statue was discovered by a catechist named Babu Palus Boota, who immediately called the parish priest, Fr. Abid Tanveer, who at that time was returning from a short visit to Lahore.

The next day, the police opened an investigation, upon complaint of the priest assisted by activists of the National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP) of the Catholic Church, under Article 295 of the Penal Code. The Christian community has expressed anger and dismay over the blasphemy, but the leader of the Catholics has been able to maintain the calm and avoid exacerbating already exasperated sentiments. At two in the morning of 3 December the police arrested the young Muslim who confessed to the crime and is now subject to pre-trial detention in prison.

Speaking to AsiaNews, the parish priest, Fr. Abid Tanveer said that "Our Lady is a key component of our faith" and "the act of desecrating a statue only serves to hurt the feelings of Christians." He appeals to the government, to punish those who breed hatred and extremism with a religious background. "The culprit - he concludes - must be brought to justice." Fr. Khalid Rashid Asi, vicar general of Faisalabad, agrees, affirming that the episode shows that "fundamentalists are not able to promote peaceful relations between different faiths."