Pakistani Christians Protest Against Muslim Violence
In Pakistan, hundreds of Christians fought with police on Sunday as they demonstrated against the lack of will shown by the Pakistani government in defending them from Muslims who have terrorized them. In Lahore and Karachi, at least 1,000 Christians took part in the protests. Christians comprise 5% of the Pakistani population.
The protests came one day after Muslims burned 170 houses in the Christian sector of Lahore. That incident came one day after a Muslim accused a Christian of blasphemy, which is punishable by life in prison or death.
The protesters claim the Pakistani government has made no serious efforts to respond to the Muslim atrocities against Christians, such as the 2009 attack in Goira where eight Christians were killed; seven of them were burned alive in their homes.
In this latest incident, 160 suspected Muslims have been arrested, but the usual pattern in Pakistan is to round up suspects but eschew convictions. The government has offered $2,000 to each Christian family, but some have lost their life savings in the fire.
Akram Gill, a local Christian bishop in Lahore, said the blasphemy accusation was false; he claimed the two men involved initially had been fighting after they had been drinking, and the Muslim fabricated the accusation the next morning. Because Pakistani officials are frightened of appearing lenient with “blasphemers,” the Christian man was taken into custody.
The officials have good reason to be afraid; two well-known officials who wanted to soften the blasphemy laws against Islam were assassinated in 2011, and one of the murderers, regarded as a hero to Muslim hardliners, was showered with rose petals by his lawyers at his trial.
There are presently at least 16 people on death row for blasphemy and another 20 serving life sentences for blasphemy in Pakistan.