LAHORE, Pakistan: The Christian Community in Pakistan is enduring a relentless wave of fear and persecution as a surge in blasphemy cases and violent attacks continues to disrupt their lives. This climate of fear has cast a dark shadow over Christians, who live under constant threat of violence and death.
Blasphemy Charges Against Lahore Christian Couple
On September 8, 2023, an alarming incident unfolded in Dogage Town, Lahore Cantt Punjab, as the local police filed blasphemy charges under Sections 295B of Pakistan’s penal code against Shaukat Masih and Kiran, a Christian couple residing in Chaudhry Colony, Lahore.
The complaint was lodged by Muhammad Tamoor, who made a disconcerting observation near the Khanki Tikka shop, adjacent to the Rangers headquarters on Millwali Street, Chaudhry Colony. He noticed several pages falling from the roof of a nearby house, prompting immediate concern. Muhammad Tamoor, driven by this unusual sight, approached the residence and knocked on the door, where he was met by Kiran. Curious about the incident, Kiran intimated that her daughters, Sundas and Ruby, and her son, Sabir, might be involved. In response to Muhammad Tamoor’s insistence, Kiran granted him access to their home.
Upon reaching the rooftop of the second floor, Muhammad Tamoor discovered a pink bag discreetly placed behind a water tank. Inside the bag were additional pages from the Quran, a discovery that deeply troubled him. Responding promptly, he dialed the emergency police number, 15, and the police arrived at the scene. Muhammad Tamoor handed over the bag and the Quranic pages to the authorities.
In his statement, Muhammad Tamoor formally requested the registration of a case against Shaukat and Kiran for their alleged involvement in desecrating the holy Quran.
The police acted swiftly, registering a case under Section 295-B of Pakistan’s blasphemy law, which specifically addresses the “Defiling, etc. of a copy of the Holy Quran.” This section carries severe penalties, including life imprisonment, for any willful act that defiles, damages, desecrates, or uses a copy of the Holy Quran or its extracts in a derogatory manner or for any unlawful purpose.
As a result of these charges, Shaukat Masih and Kiran, the Christian couple at the heart of the allegations, have been placed under arrest. This development has heightened tension in the area, compounding the prevailing concerns.
Escalating Misuse of Blasphemy Law
Over the past three months, an alarming pattern has emerged in Sargodha, with at least five complaints linked to accusations of blasphemy filed against Christians. The religious-political party, Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), has orchestrated an aggressive campaign surrounding these alleged blasphemy cases, stoking suspicion against Christians and inciting protests demanding the apprehension of the accused individuals.
Violent Assault on Jaranwala’s Christian Community
August 16, 2023, marked a tragic day for the Christian community in Jaranwala. A brutal and destructive attack unfolded, resulting in the desecration of 24 churches, some reduced to rubble, and the widespread looting and burning of hundreds of homes across 11 areas in the Faisalabad district. This eruption of violence was triggered by unfounded rumors and allegations of blasphemy targeting a Christian resident in Jaranwala’s Christian Town.
Forced Evacuation of Tandlianwala’s Christian Community
On the night of September 6, a deeply distressing incident occurred in Tandlianwala, District Faisalabad, as the Christian community was forced to abandon their homes due to imminent threats from extremist elements within the Muslim population.
Joseph Jansen, Chairperson of Voice for Justice, has strongly emphasized the urgent need to address the deteriorating condition of religious minorities in Pakistan. The rampant misuse of blasphemy laws, coupled with a surge in violence against Christians, demands immediate action and intervention to secure the rights, safety, and security of all citizens, regardless of their religious beliefs.
He has highlighted the alarming escalation of religious intolerance, discrimination, and violence against religious minorities, which has compelled Christians to flee their homes in Tandlianwala, Pakistan, over baseless blasphemy accusations. The rising tide of religious intolerance in Pakistan has also driven the Christian community in Sargodha, Punjab, to abandon their residences in search of safety, raising grave concerns about the well-being of religious minorities facing baseless accusations.