Pakistan Christians Raise Voices to Defend Against Blasphemy Accusations

The Christian minority in Pakistan’s Sangla Hill appeared before a judicial inquiry to testify, in face of accusations of blasphemy.

The Christian minority in Pakistan’s Sangla Hill appeared before a judicial inquiry to testify, in face of accusations of blasphemy that has triggered Muslim attacks on churches.

The appearance of Christians on Monday, Nov. 28, was decided by the Christian Action Committee Sangla Hill over a meeting presided by Father Samson Dilawar, under the assistance of legal experts, according to the Pakistan national newspaper the Daily Times.

Prior to this meeting, the Committee had once insisted for a High Court inquiry and declined to testify before the sessions judge-level inquiry commission, the Daily Times report added.

On Nov. 12, a massive Muslim mob torched a series of Christian settlements in Sangla Hill in eastern Pakistan’s Punjab province. Three churches, a convent, a Christian School, a girls' hostel and a priest's home were burnt into ashes, as the Muslims charged a Christian named Yusaf Masih of blasphemy for allegedly desecrating the Koran.

Four major church leaders in Sangla Hill have strongly defended Masih in a joint letter to the Pakistan President. They argued that two Muslims, who have lost money to Masih in a gambling, were trying to use the blasphemy law to settle their personal disputes.

Over the past two weeks since the unrest broke out, Masih has been detained by the authorities for investigation. If the charge against Masih is justified, he will be subjected to death penalty under the blasphemy law.

New development of the case emerged last Saturday, as the statements of two Muslim witnesses made before the judge-level inquiry, have shaken the accusations of blasphemy leveled against Masih, according to AsiaNews. They said that Masih and his accuser Mohammad Saleem were fighting in a place different to that recorded in the blasphemy charge.

Meanwhile, international Christian organizations and Christians across Pakistan continue to call for a total repeal of the blasphemy law, saying it has been abused by religious extremists to discriminate against minority Christians.

According to the Daily Times, the Pastoral Institute in Multan observed a closure on Nov. 27 in protest against the blasphemy law while the Catholic-body National Commission for Justice and Peace organized a press conference to call for interfaith harmony and abolition of blasphemy laws.

The Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams – the leader of the 77 million-strong Anglicans worldwide – is now on a tour in Pakistan. When he met with the Pakistan Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz and other top officials last week, he urged the Pakistan government to reform the blasphemy law.

According to the Pakistan Christian Post’s report on Monday, the Archbishop was assured by the government of Pakistan that the blasphemy law would be reviewed to minimize the possibility of its misuse against minorities.