Thursday, 20 August 2009

Religious Violence in Pakistan

Seven people were killed and 20 injured when Muslim demonstrators set fire to houses in a Christian enclave and fighting broke out earlier this month.

Four women, two men and a child, all Christians, were killed when their houses were burned or were shot to death. Some 50 houses were burned down and more than 100 were looted by the protesters, Shehbaz Bhatti, federal minister for minorities said. The incident occurred in Gojra City, 100 miles southwest of Lahore.

Police said Muslims were enraged over an alleged desecration of pages in the Quran at a Christian wedding last Saturday, and held a rally to protest such an act. The Quran is the Muslim sacred text. "Some people blamed the Christians for the desecration of the holy Quran," said a minister, adding that the accusations were "baseless".

There was a demonstration by about a thousand Christians who refused to bury their dead until the government registered a criminal case against those they alleged to have carried out the attacks. They want the Government to investigate this as a crime, they regard it as lined to the Taliban.

A few days later 15 Christian houses in the region were also torched. Desecrating the Quran is punishable by death under the blasphemy laws of mainly Muslim Pakistan. Christians, who make up less than three per cent of Pakistan's population of 150 million, say the blasphemy laws are used as an excuse to victimise them.

This week in London, Knightsbridge, just opposite the Pakistani Embassy; over 300 Pakistani Christians from across the UK united to demonstrate against the recent atrocities. Protestors say that Police authorities stood back while the carnage took place and no protection was being given to the beleaguered community that is still being threatened with potential violence.