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ANS (12/17/05) – A number of Pakistani Christians will observe an upcoming day of “Protest, Prayers and Fasting.”

The event will take place on Dec. 20, and signify the completion of 40 days of mourning for the Sangala Hill tragedy (www.assistnews.net/Stories/s05110123.htm), when announcements were made in mosques urging Muslims to attack Christians.

According to a news release from the All Pakistan Minorities Alliance (APMA), “This day will be observed to condemn the lawlessness and intolerance in the name of religion, and (the) callous attitude of authorities for not arresting the real culprits.”

Speaking in the Pakistani capital of Islamabad at a Dec. 16 press conference, APMA Chairman Shahbaz Bhatti, explained to the reporters present what happened at Sangala Hill

Bhatti said the incident revolved around a Christian man, Yousaf Masih, being falsely alleged for desecration of the Koran. That was followed, he said, as reported in the news release, by announcements in a number of mosques on Sangala Hill, urging Muslims to attack Christians. The mob of approximately 5,000 people including teen madrasah (an Islamic school, more at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Madrassa) students, who attacked Christians with weapons, gasoline, highly flammable chemicals, sticks and batons.

Buildings attacked included a Roman Catholic Church, two United Presbyterian Churches , a convent, a high school and a girls hostel. In addition, some homes belonging to Christians as well as some parsonages were torched at Sangala Hill.

In addition to the buildings, about 500 hundred Bibles, some Christian literature, crosses, and other Christian material were set on fire. Ironically, also destroyed were some Islamic studies books and copies of the Koran.

Bhatti said at the insistence of a variety of Sangala Hill’s community leaders, an official visited the site of the incident six days after it occurred. According to Bhatti speaking in the news release, this official promised to launch an immediate official enquiry into what happened. He also, Bhatti said, ordered the arrest of everyone connected to the attack and suspended local police officers for (according to what was reported in the APMA news release) their “negligence.”

However, the APMA news release stated, “the key culprits nominated by the church leaders and local Christian community of Sangala Hill are not arrested yet.”

According to the news release, Bhatti complained that the government has done nothing to defuse the tension and failed to repair the situation. Rather, he said, they are protecting the instigators of mob violence. He said that Christians living at Sangala Hill are worried because of the ongoing atmosphere of fear and insecurity.

“They are frightened,” Bhatti said in the news release, “because the real culprits are still at large, and Islamic extremists are threatening and harassing the Christians of Sangala Hill.”

Bhatti said that the Sangala Hill attacks illustrate the fact that Christians are targeted by certain Islamic groups.

“This state of affair points to a serious crisis of governance and the policies,” he said. “The current situation calls for exhaustive efforts on the part of government, citizens and public organizations to undertake the responsibility to address the issues of concern in a real sense, and promote the culture of tolerance and interfaith harmony. Discrimination on the account of their faith must end to make Pakistan a tolerant society.”

Bhatti said that area Christians are horrified by “these heinous acts of desecration on their sacred places of worship. We strongly condemn these acts as acts of terrorism against weak and defenseless religious minorities. Unfortunately, this is not … an isolated incident … against Christian minorit(ies) and their places of worship, despite the injunctions of the founder of (our) nation towards respecting freedom of worship.”

A number of similar incidents have also taken place in the past without any action been taken against the alleged perpetrators, Bhatti said.

According to the news release, Bhatti laid out a number of demands while speaking at the news conference.

He said that APMA and others are demanding an end to religious intolerance and want to see the immediate arrest of those behind the Sangala Hill incident, with their trials conducted in the anti-terrorist court. In addition, Bhatti said, among other things, Yousaf Masih should be released and all charges against him should be dropped, and the people who made announcements at mosques urging attacks against Christians and Christian churches should be punished.

Bhatti added, the news release stated, that “Discriminatory laws such as blasphemy laws, a major tool for creating disharmony should be repealed, and reconciliation efforts between people of different faith should be made to eliminate violence in the name of religion …”