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ANS (02/14/06) – Pakistani Christians got the first taste of Muslim anger over publication of satirical cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad as Sialkot Football industry has deliberately printed the image of the holy cross on the patches of its football in its bid to “avenge” the publication of the controversial sketches by European newspapers.

The printing of cross on the football patches has sparked outrage among Pakistani Christians across the country. In what appears to be a deliberate attempt to desecrate holy cross the industry plans to stitch the patches bearing printing of cross on scores of footballs, which would be later sold in the national and international markets.

The hate-promoting plan of the football industry received condemnation from the clergy and faithful in Pakistan and they have urged the authorities concerned to stop the foot ball industry from going ahead with the plan, fearing that implementation of the move would further dim the prospects of inter-faith harmony in the pre-dominantly Muslim country.

In his bid to stop the industry from churning out the footballs bearing image of cross in the domestic and international markets, Bishop Timotheus Nasir wrote a letter to Pakistan President General Pervez Musharraf, urging him to intervene and stop the industry from taking the step that may harm religious harmony.

The letter read: “With [a] sense of ‘solidarity’ with our Muslim friends all over the world, anger and anguish over the heinous crime of the Western Press on derogatory publication, I deplore and condemn such publication in strongest words that has hurt the religious feelings of every Muslim in the world. I also believe that ‘Freedom of Press’ does not mean hurting the feelings of over a billion Muslim around the globe. Such freedom must be condemned and controlled by all respective governments.

“At the same time, I am shocked to see burning of Holy Cross by the Muslim protesters and ‘trample’ and ‘stampede’ of the Holy Cross on the national flag of Denmark . I also condemn the desecration of Holy Cross by burning it by the protestors in Pakistan . At the same time ‘Sialkot Football Industry’ has avenged the Danish news paper crime by deliberately printing the “Holy Cross” on ‘Patches’ of Footballs as shown above.

“I wish to ask Your Excellency, why are we, the Christians living in Pakistan are always punished for the deeds of those people who do not ask us before committing such heinous crimes against Islam. What is the reason of printing the sign of ‘Holy Cross’ on ‘Footballs’? Do the Muslim industrialists wish that an extremely sacred Sign of Christian World be “kicked around” by Muslims? I say “by Muslims” as now most Islamic countries have boycotted the West, these Foot Balls will find market in Muslim countries.

“Your Excellency, this small ‘Patch’ will be ‘Stitched’ on thousands of “Footballs’ and sold in the local and international market as a revenge of “Blasphemous Images” in Western Press, can not be ignored or tolerated. We hold our religion and Sacred religious signs as Sacred as any Muslim does. To protect the sanctity of the Holy Cross, you would find us ready to be hanged on Crosses physically though we are mentally hanged on Crosses every now and then by our Muslim friends in Pakistan . Sangla Hill is still burning in our minds.”

The Bishop concluded by saying, “It is therefore very humbly requested Your Excellency, to please take actions against those industrialists who have ‘willfully Desecrated’ the Holy Cross. We wish to remain calm, as always, yet a line must be drawn between our patience and the Religious Persecution of Christians in Pakistan by Muslims.

“Your Excellency, the manufacturing of such footballs with “Sign of Holy Cross” must be banned and the manufacturers must be punished for desecration of the Holy Cross.”

Meanwhile, churches have reportedly been attacked by mobs led by six party religio-political alliances MMA in Hyderabad .

The crowds vented their spleen over publication of the Prophet Muhammad’s Cartoons on Pakistani Christians by pelting stones at the Church building situated in Tilk Incline area of Hyderabad on Friday. The enraged crowd also erected hindrance to the entrance of the church.

Addressing a news conference in Hyderabad on Sunday (Feb 12), the Bishop of Hyderabad Diocese Church of Pakistan, Rafiq Masih, stressed religious harmony among Pakistani Christians and Muslims.

Condemning attack on the Church in Hyderabad , he said Muslims had every right to stage peaceful protests over publication of the objectionable sketches of the Prophet Muhammad but added that resorting to arson and damaging of church properties by Muslims in Pakistan was unlawful.

He said that Pakistani Muslims must stay away from attacking on churches in the country as the churches and church properties in Pakistan are not properties of Denmark , France , and Germany or of any other European country.

“Arson, loot and killing is no way of expressing religious anger. Pakistanis could express their anger through boycotting the products and by social boycott of the countries in question,” he maintained.

Pakistani Christians are no strangers to Muslim wrath after any event in the west, which is viewed as unjust, discriminatory or sacrilegious by Pakistani Muslims.