A small Pakistani Christian community of two families was set upon by a furious Islamic mob last week after being accused of insulting a Muslim man and committing blasphemy.
According to a Britain-based charity advocating on behalf of Pakistani Christians, the families, who were from the Arif Wala Tehsil district of Punjab province, were confronted by some 40 Muslim men from a local mosque and forced to flee their homes.
The British Pakistani Christian Association, which is assisting the families financially, noted that the local mosque announced on its loudspeakers that the Christians had insulted the prophet Muhammad, sparking the mob to seek a violent confrontation.
According to reports, the local imams called for the Muslim community to unite and force the Christians out of town. As a result, five Christian men have been arrested and are currently being detained by police.
"Local police from Arifwala police have confirmed that thus far no blasphemy charge has been made which is comforting for the Christian families,” BPCA field officer Mehwish Bhatti explained, according to the Christian Post. "However, we call on people to pray for this situation to improve as Christian families are not sending their children to school for fear that they will be kidnapped or attacked or worse still killed.”
In addition, Bhatti noted that many Muslim business owners have stopped selling goods to Christian families, causing many believers to go hungry. “Some families have expressed their desperate plea for help as they have had to go without food on some days,” she added. "Shukantilla [a 60-year-old mother] was upset because all the earning hands in her family are in police custody.”
How did the situation come about?
According to BPCA, the Muslim man, Syed Bashir, was asked to move away from one of the Christian families’ homes after becoming loud and belligerent while on the phone. It was at this point that the man threatened one of the family’s sons, Naveed Masih, before a confrontation eventually led to Bashir punching him in the eye.
After Masih defended himself, the family pulled him back into the house. Then, as he was leaving the scene, Bashir promised to retaliate at a later date.
This recounting of events seems to indicate that the Christian family was simply defending themselves on their own property. However, as is common in Muslim-majority Pakistan, it was the Jesus-followers who have been unfairly blamed for the altercation.
"This was a horrifying moment for my whole family and other Christians,” one of the family members, Shukantila Farzand, told BPCA of being confronted by the group. "In our panic, we started to get ourselves ready to flee our homes and get far away from the village, however, we were all too slow.”
She added: “The violent mob surrounded our home and all of them had weapons including guns — which were being shot in the air, sticks, axes, poles and farming tools. The mob began shouting outside our home, asking for our family to exit our home and receive divine retribution for our sin.”
The families were forced from their houses and have since sought refuge in the home of a moderate Muslim lawyer. They are safe, for now.
Photo courtesy: Pixabay