A pastor in Pakistan has been denied bail after he was accused of blasphemy and arrested by police, who protected him from a mob of angry Muslims.
Karma Patras was originally arrested on Oct. 13, after he held a prayer meeting at a Christian family's house in Sanghla Hill in central Punjab province, where he was asked about the meaning and relevance of the Muslim feast of sacrifice, Eid-al-Adha. The festival, celebrated by Muslims throughout the world, honors the sacrifice to God Abraham was willing to make by offering his first-born son Ishmael, as found in the Book of Genesis.
As reported by persecution watchdog International Christian Voice, Pastor Patras said that the feast was strictly a Muslim one and was forbidden for Christians. Patras quoted Corinthians 10:28-29, which says: "But if anyone says to you, 'This was offered to idols,' do not eat it for the sake of the one who told you, and for conscience' sake; for 'the earth is the Lord's, and all its fullness. 'Conscience,' I say, not your own, but that of the other. For why is my liberty judged by another man's conscience?"
Muslims were also listening in on his answers, however, and told others about Patras' explanation. When the pastor returned home from the prayer gathering, he was threatened by angry Muslim clerics who wanted to punish him for speaking out against the celebration of Eid-al-Adha.
The imams apparently organized an angry mob, who called Patras an infidel who has blasphemed against Islam and should be killed, attacking the pastor's house. Police apparently rushed to the scene to try and save Patras from the beating and his house from being destroyed, but at the same time arrested him under suspicion of blasphemy.
Pakistan's blasphemy laws are some of the strictest in the world, and people deemed to have insulted or spoken out against Islam are routinely imprisoned. In August, the imprisonment of a young teenage girl, Rimsha Masih, who was accused of tearing up pages from the Quran, the Muslim holy book, sparked international outrage.
Patras is currently in jail, where he is being represented by human rights lawyer Tahir Naveed – who also took up the case of the young girl.
The punishment for blasphemy can range from long-term imprisonment to even the death penalty, although many human rights groups, including the United Nations, have urged the South Asian country to revise its laws and provide more protection for minority religious populations, like Christians, who make up less than 5 percent of the 180 million Pakistani population.