Some house churches are being ordered to be shut down in Pakistan while mobs are calling for the lynching of two blasphemy law victims, including a 16-year-old, as tensions against the Christian minority in the predominantly Muslim country has intensified in recent weeks.
Pakistan Christian Post notes:
Communities of Christians up and down the country have been warned that if Nabeel and and Asia are not hanged for their crimes, then Muslims will attack Christian communities to kill as many as they can for retribution. Extra security teams are being posted at churches and despite the threats church attendances seem to have grown, as Christians seek hope for their situation through God.
Meanwhile, the government of Bahawalpur, one of the most populous cities of U.S. ally Pakistan located in Punjab province, has banned Christians from gathering in houses to offer their worship or prayers.
The local government “issued orders that Christians can offer Sunday Prayers in Church Buildings only not in houses,” reports Pakistan Christian Post, adding, “There are only four Church Buildings in city of Bahawalpur which belong to Catholic Church of Pakistan and Church of Pakistan which were built before independence of Pakistan in 1947 or before 1971.”
Across Pakistan, Sunni Muslims have coordinated mass demonstrations, chanting slogans and displaying signs calling for Bibi to be hanged.
Pakistan Christian Post points out:
Last week Asia Bibi a mother of five who has been unjustly incarcerated for seven years had to suffer the ignominy of having her trial being postponed indefinitely… Protests have been held across the country in which extremist groups are inciting the already conservative Muslim communities in Pakistan to call for the blood of Asia Bibi.
This week, a mob of more than 80 Muslims sought the death of 16-year-old Mashih, while the Lahore High Court awaits his sentence for charges of blasphemy.
“Nabeel’s crime was to post a Facebook [FB] image that is said to be derogatory to Muslims on the walls of his friends FB. [sic] On Friday a judge announced the young teenager could face the death sentence a harsh penalty… the alleged blasphemy crime charged to Nabeel Masih breaches… Pakistan’s blasphemy law, which should hold a maximum sentence of 10 years,” explains Pakistan Christian Post.
However in Pakistan law courts are known for their manipulation of laws which are used as a tool discriminate minorities. The presiding judge in Nabeel’s case felt that the image (which allegedly no-one but the accusers and the police have ever seen on Nabeel’s Facebook page), constituted a crime against Muhammed. As such Nabeel now faces a very serious chance of a death sentence at his tender age of 16, simply for inappropriate use of social media.
Worse still, the mob of 80 that were present during his court case were threatening to kill Nabeel and his family for the slight to their faith. Hollering in a court for the blood of Nabeel, they demanded a death sentence and the judge duly acceded to the wishes of the mob.
Members and supporters of the fairly new movement movement called Tehreek-e-Labbaik Ya Rasool (We Are Here for You Prophet Muhammad), numbering in the hundreds, gathered in Karachi, Islamabad, and Lahore last week to protest their hatred towards Asia.
“It will be a war if accursed Asia escapes. We are united to guard the honor of Rasool Allah, we are His servants,” one of the protesters in Lahore, identified only as Mukhtar, told AsiaNews. “Was Pakistan formed to hang the lovers and spare blasphemers. Why is Asia Bibi not hanged even after the death sentence by Lahore High Court and Supreme Court,” he asked, warning “the government will pay if it acts on foreign agenda and betrays us.”
Nabeel’s family has been forced into hiding.