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Category Archives: Christians

Asif Masih and Khadim Masih still missing


The story of two Christian brothers, who went missing on 14th September, was not the first incident of abduction. Many would ask this question that why their religious affiliation needs to be mentioned. The answer is simple. Small groups with little social presence are more vulnerable and find less representation. Their issues when merged on the big canvas loose their true colours and identity in countries likePakistan. Hundreds of cases of abductions are registered every day with police and the weaker sections of the society which grow up in the complex web of caste, creed, and status, find themselves powerless to approach the institutions to seek justice.

If are a Christian and that, too, poor who works on Muslim’s land expose you to more threats, humiliation, discrimination and torture as it has been stated by newspapers millions of times. Knowing the fact that Muslims rule in this country, little or no attention is paid to the issues of minorities. In this case who will hold the inquiry when the alleged culprit is from the police department?

Faisalabad(AsiaNews) – Nothing is known of two Christian brothers from Faisalabad(Punjab) who were seized by the Muslim landowning family that employed them. The two disappeared on 14 September. Since then, “We have no idea where they are, whether they are dead or alive,” their mother told AsiaNews. A money dispute between the two Christian farm workers and their Muslim landlords is at the root of their abduction. Police have not yet opened a First Information Report because one of the landlords is a police officer.

Asif Masih, 23, known as Kali, and Khadim Masih, 35, come from a poor Christian family living in Chak 71, Jaranwala District, Faisalabad. They worked for 2,500 Pakistani rupees (US$ 29) a month for three Muslim landowners, policeman Javed Dogar and his brothers Sajjad Dogar and Rauf Dogar, who hail from Khurrianwala.

The mother of the two Christian brothers, Basheeran Bibi, said her sons had borrowed 20,000 rupees from the landowners, and were paying the loan back every month, out of their salary.

However, working for the Dogars was getting harder and harder. Although Muslims, they were often drunk and brutally beat the two Christians for no apparent reason.

When they found out, the parents of the Masih brothers suggested they pay off the debt and quit. This sparked an angry reaction from the Dogars who stormed the Masih home where they roughed up Niamat, the brothers’ father, who has a heart ailment. After that, they abducted the two brothers in September asking for a ransom of 70,000 rupees, plus the remainder of the debt.

The men’s mother tried to file a report with police, which refused because one of the suspects is a fellow police officer.

“Disputes between landowners and tenant farmers are commonplace in the area,” Fr Augustine, a priest in Faisalabad who provides financial and moral help to families, told AsiaNews. A serious and impartial inquiry should be conducted into the affair. “Farm workers are poor,” he explained. “They don’t have money to pay for legal action against landowners.”

 
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Posted by on October 29, 2011 in Christians

 

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Love thy neighbours?


It has been ages since I last wrote a blog. My apologies for this pause, longer than what I have expected. It was fair to assume that either I have lost interest or my cause has met some success. But I still have no reason to choose either of the options. It was time for me to sit back and ensure that I am still committed despite having no signs of improvement in the status of those people I strongly feel for. But as majority decided to side with violators; likewise, the victims and their supporters decided to continue fighting for their rights.

There is a long list of things I would like to share with my readers, but a report published in a newspaper has just caught my attention. Siddique Sindhu, a Christian Pastor, who lives in Green Town of Lahore, has been receiving threats from a neighbor who, he suspects, of having involved in two robberies. Sindhu lost 0.8 million rupees goods, including jewelry and dowry for his two daughters in those robberies. Muhammad Aslam Shah, the accused, has rented his house out to around 30 boys whom he used to harass the family of Sindhu. The question here is that why he has done it and what he could achieve through harassment and robbery except creating an environment for Sindhu not conducive to live peacefully.

His wish to grab the land where Sindhu’s house is built right now was behind it in a hope to build an imam bargah later. This all has started in the year of 2009 and since then Sindhu and his family has suffered an immeasurable damage both in terms of money and peace of mind.  The accused, though, has denied all charges saying that his 28 tenants were arrested on Sindhu’s complaints, but no evidence was found against them. He is sure of his tenants’ innocence as they swore on the Holy Quran. Sindhu said that one Safdar, had introduced himself as reader to a police superintendent, told him on 15 July to withdraw the complaints or else he would implicate Sindhu’s sons in criminal cases and also get Sindhu in the legal trap of blasphemy.

Waqar Ahmed, the Lahore chapter president of National Peace Committee for Interfaith Harmony is personally looking into the matter and interviewing the neighbours to establish the facts. The response from the neighbours is encouraging and loaded with sympathies for Sindhu and they are hopeful that it will not be a case of Muslims vs. Christians.

Here I have put all the facts and the point being made here is not to determine the righteousness of anyone based on his/her religion. There is a possibility that Sindhu has overreacted to any event, but here it is a string of threatening events. My personal observations suggests that keeping in mind the current status quo of Christians, no one would dare to give a reason to the majority to single him out. Sindhu is alone in his fight for justice knowing that his position in the society being a Christian will always be challenged. He still has taken the tough route despite threats and harassment and this strengthens my belief that all cannot be a lie.

Sindhu is mindful of threats doled out to him but he is still pursuing the case. The blasphemy does strike anyone like a real threat because it has swallowed many lives, and inefficient legal system has given teeth to this law as well. Whatever has happened to hundreds of people behind this legal shield is enough to scare people away and stop them from any sort of resistance against injustice. The issues have always involved property and land grabbing from people of other religions and blasphemy gives them an excuse to hide their intentions. I want to believe his neighbours who do not take it as Muslims targeting a Christian, but simultaneously I cannot outrageously ignore the logic in Sindhu’s argument.

 

 
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Posted by on July 30, 2011 in Blasphemy, Christians

 

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Minorities suffer beyond borders…


The Church after the attack

I am not writing it in defence of this country-Pakistan- or presenting any justification of what abnormality the country has shown towards the minorities. But a broader picture of the injustice committed against the marginalized sections of the society suggests that Pakistan has joined the ship where other countries including the Arab world also do their bit.

The clashes between Muslims and Christians in Cairo have given the country a tough time, leaving 51 people injured, according to the health ministry. The week-long clashes broke out following an attack on two churches which has taken 12 precious lives.

Attacking churches does not sound new to our ears as we have seen it happening in Pakistan for multiple reasons. The comparison I am drawing here that the root cause of this attack happened far away in Egypt is found here commonly and has flared up people’s emotions to the extent that they burnt Christians alive in past. Some Muslims in Cairo surrounded the church demanding Christians to hand over a woman, they said Christians had detained after she converted to Islam and left her Christian husband to marry a Muslim.

In protest, when Christians were staging a sit-in outside the state television building, an altercation between a Muslims and Christians has further intensified the situation. A protest mourning the killing of 12 people brought injuries to 51 other people. It is not a good situation and the queasy feeling it has stirred are hard to counter. The danger for something worse is now lurking in the minds and hearts of 10 to 15 million of Christians in Egypt who are called Copt.

Christians clash with police and Muslims

Religion is not a property which empowers anyone enough to decide others fate and assigns his new role as a custodian of any religion. Muslims must prepare themselves of letting go of the feeling that they are somewhat ‘superior’ because God has sent them the last Holy Book—Quran.  There is no Jabar, force, allowed when one preaches religion as your actions speak louder than words. The precedent the Islamic world is setting is unacceptable because a ‘perfect world’ does not exist. A world only for Muslims will again not bring any solution because they themselves are divided and any new sect is enough to challenge their little kingdom they are building on the blood of innocent people.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-13403504

 
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Posted by on May 17, 2011 in Christians

 

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OBL: The Church is scared…


Osama Bin Laden– a nightmare for the US, but a pal for many including a lot of Pakistanis–is dead. The man has left many conspiracy theories behind him and a whole debate on future bilateral relationship of the US and Pakistan. Many mourned his death in a manner one could do for his loved ones whereas many kept assuming the possibilities with much skepticism. This is how Pakistanis must have felt generally, but a country where its minorities are victimized for every sin, their fear of a possible backlash is genuine.

What is true has no significance here that those Pakistanis who believe in other religions and sects have no direct link to this killing which determines their zero share in the punishment too. But in the land of ifs and buts, the Christians have a feeling that Taliban tend to attack their churches as acts of vengeance. Taliban and many ordinary citizens would look at the ‘OBL operation’ as an invasion in a Muslim country which offers an excuse to announce Jihad against Christians.

The concern for the safety of Christians in Pakistanis high and explained very well by the Catholic Archbishop Emeritus of Lahore, Lawrence Saldanha. “Christians could face a backlash and we are a soft target as they cannot attack America. We demand security. The government should control any retaliation,” he said.

The bigger picture tells that the government and for that matter any institute lack a will to protect the worship places of other religions, let alone the Christians. The backlash nightmare is turning into reality and people regardless of their religion are being killed. The churches, mosques, mandirs, and gurdwaras including their followers are still vulnerable and if the government decides to provide these places with security.  I doubt if it could be of any help.

But the situation in Gujranwala indicates that something is cooking and that isolates Christians only. The Quran burning so far has proven the most powerful and effective excuse when the mob decides to take revenge or settle the scores. Same happened in this case too. The blasphemy laws strike again when two men– Mushtaq Gill and his son Farrukh– were taken into police custody for questioning and found guilty. Muslims have reacted angrily, held protests and vandalized Christian homes and a school. Some 3,000 Christians have fled the area fearing for their lives and the police failed to control the situation.

I tried to imagine other possible outlets through which the Muslims could react, but I could only come up with the accusations of blasphemy. It is a successful recipe to flare up people emotions and one does not need to present evidences to prove the offense. The police quietly succumb to the pressure and let go of the investigation part, the little blasphemy laws allow. Osama has gone and I believe the world will not fall apart without him. The US and Pakistan will eventually normalize the relationship as world believes in coexistence. Neither OBL nor the US will ever come to your rescue but those who share the same country, culture, and traditions will be on your side. Do not isolate your own people even if they believe in other Holy Books. They are and will always be Pakistanis.

 
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Posted by on May 15, 2011 in Blasphemy, Christians

 

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Blasphemy convict’s death in jail sparks suspicion


Those accused of blasphemy have no present and future in this country and that has been determined so far. The weak social and political existence and representation of minorities in Pakistan and poor economic conditions have made them more vulnerable to victimisation. Their legal status , one could determine through the most controversial  blasphemy laws targetting them since decades. The wave of extremism has furhere squeezed their breathing space and after the assassinations of Punjab Gvernor Salman Taseer and Minister for Minority Affairs, Shahbaz Bhatti, the world has come to know that any vooice that speaks truth and stands with justice is ought to be crushed. Prior to these assassinations, our minorities were living in a constant fear with a little hope, but the recent death of Qamar David, a Christian serving a life sentence in two blasphemy cases, told us that their life in prison is not safe even.

His family suspected it to be a murder and they have infinite reasons to believe that. Why would we believe the jail authorities or the medical report when the whole society has denied them their rights including their right to life. In blasphemy cases, even our courts here are reluctant to decide the cases due to threats and social pressure. The accused spend their whole lfe in prison waiting for justice and anyone other than the authorities take the law in their hands in the name of religion. The assassins of Taseer and Bhatti are our heroes and similarly those who kill people like David are the protectors of Islam who are above law.

Calling for inquiry is the only thing the rights group can do, but we all know that this country has not learnt to respect human life and protect its own citizens. The extremism which is ruining the country and people is what we have asked for.  What goes around comes around. Those who do not learn pay the price.

Below is the story:
Express Tribune

KARACHI: Fifty-five-year-old Qamar David, a Christian serving a life sentence in two blasphemy cases, died on Tuesday of what jailers say was a heart attack but his family suspects it was murder.

David was being kept at Central Jail, Karachi. “My husband had no disease,” his wife Tabassum told The Express Tribune. “He informed me about receiving threats from someone in jail after the assassination of Shahbaz Bhatti.” Jail Deputy Superintendent Raja Mumtaz refuted these claims. “No one killed him,” he said. “He died of a heart attack.” He was taken to Civil Hospital, Karachi where he died while being treated.

A postmortem will be held today in the presence of his family, a magistrate and the police surgeon. Two cases of blasphemy were registered against him in the Saddar and Azizabad police stations in 2006 and one attempted murder case was registered by the Sir Syed police station. The victim’s family also filed a petition in the Sindh High Court where they challenged the life imprisonment. The attempted murder case was being heard.

David, who hailed from a town near Lahore, used to live in Lines Area and used to run a small business.

Background

On February 25, 2010, Additional District and Sessions Judge Jangu Khan found Qamar David guilty of blasphemy. The judge sentenced David to life imprisonment under Sections 295A and 295C of the Pakistan Penal Code, based on claims made by business rivals. He was accused of sending text messages which contained derogatory remarks about the Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). Christian human rights groups have demanded that a committee investigate the causes of the death.

The Catholic Bishop of  Islamabad/Rawalpindi Rufin Anthony conveyed his condolences to David’s family and said, “I am in grief, the whole Christian community has been grieving for the past few days. We haven’t recovered from the loss and this news has increased my concerns about the future of Christians in Pakistan. David was falsely accused of blasphemy. How much more blood do we still have to see to realise that the blasphemy laws need to be abolished? How much blood does the government wants to have on its hands? Another sad day for the minorities in Pakistan.”

 
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Posted by on March 16, 2011 in Blasphemy, Christians

 

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Shahbaz Bhatti’s murder: An attempt on the parliament’s right to debate legislative issues


PAKISTAN: Pakistan Peace Council terms the murder of Shahbaz Bhatti an attempt on the parliament’s right to debate legislative issues Karachi, March 04, 2011:

The Pakistan Peace Coalition (PPC) strongly condemns the brutal murder of the Federal Minister for Minorities Affairs Shahbaz Bhatti in Islamabad on March 03, 2011. The murder on the pretext of the Minister’s opposition to the contentions of Blasphemy Laws is outrageous and an open challenge to the future stability of Pakistan, a statement issued by the Pakistan Peace Coalition read.

The PPC observed that Minister Bhatti was killed merely two months after the assassination of Governor Punjab Salman Taseer, who too was silenced for his open remarks about the blasphemy laws. “The blame for Shahbaz Bhatti’s murder cannot just be attributed to the government alone. There are serious questions regarding the roles of the political parties, the parliament, the media, the judiciary and the security establishment, all having created an environment where fundamentals related to the right to live, minorities protection, freedom of speech, rule of law, parliament’s right to debate and amend laws are being challenged, and mobs and street forces are being manipulated to take law into their own hands.”

The PPC emphasised that the Blasphemy Laws is an issue for the parliament to debate, and not for the religious forces to decide. They neither have an electoral base nor do they have any relevance in the vision of a progressive national order. Likewise, the judiciary has a responsibility to uphold the sanctity of the constitutional provision of the right to live, freedom of speech and other fundamental constitutional guarantees. Time and again, the religious right has issued open decree inciting masses to murder and threaten the safety and wellbeing of individuals over issues that are a prerogative of the public representatives to decide. The religious forces neither have the electoral mandate nor do they represent a wider section of the population. The concerned authorities’ failure to take note of the series of violations of the rule of law by the religious mobs have made a direct contribution to the murder of Salman Taseer and Shahbaz Bhatti, while the life of another parliamentarian Sherry Rehman remains in danger for the same reason.

Declaring the Minorities Affairs Minister’s murder as another attempt to derail the democratic process, the PPC also criticised the role of progressive political parties in the parliament over the issue of the blasphemy laws. Today’s parliament carries the combination of the most progressive and democratic forces the country has ever had, yet their deafening silence over an issue that has been claiming one life after another is disappointing. We have seen that all those who sought to rationalise the debate on the blasphemy issue, including Gov. Salman Taseer, MNA Sherry Rehman and Minister Shahbaz Bhatti were not only isolated by the state, their fellow public representatives too did nothing to support their stand either in the house of representatives or in the public domain. As a result, we lost two leading lights upholding the right of the minorities. Pakistan’s current parliamentarians need to understand that it is not merely about the blasphemy laws, it is about the Parliament’s right to debate issues in the House that is being challenged. If the Parliament will continue to allow legislative issues discussed and decided on the streets, there are little chances of democratic process to survive in the country.

The PPC observed that Shahbaz Bhatti’s murder took place in spite of the Government’s public assertion, repeated ad nauseam, that it has no intention whatsoever to amend the Blasphemy Law! If the Prime Minister himself rules out any amendment to the law that has blatantly threatened citizens’ protection, and yet a Minorities Affairs Minister is murdered, there are clear signals that people who wish to take over the country would suppress all voices that stand in opposition to their regressive views.

The PPC cautioned that situation similar to 1977 is developing in the country. The recent series of events point to the empowerment of the religious forces by the security stablishment of the country. Various religious parties and sectarian groups seem to have set aside their traditional hatred of each other and are trying to cobble together a politico-religious platform from which to participate in the next elections with a violence-prone agenda of religious extremism. This is nothing short of a national disaster with much graver consequences this time.

Asian Human Rights Commission

 
 

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A great show on assassination of Shahbaz Bhatti


Aapas Ki Baat with Najam Sethi: 2nd March 2011

http://najamsethi.com/ns/2011/03/aapas-ki-baat-with-najam-sethi-2nd-march-2011/

 

 
 
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