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‘Christians suffered violence rather than provoking it,’ says Pakistani Bishop

09/23/2009 Pakistan (ANS)-The Rt.Revd John Samuel, Bishop of Church of Pakistan of Faisalabad diocese, has termed accusations on 129 Christians including himself and his two sons, that they provoked the Gojra violence as “baseless”, “fallacious” and “concocted.”

Gojra, a small town in province of Punjab , Pakistan , saw one of the worst kinds of communal tension on August 1 when miscreants set ablaze over 50 Christians’ houses, killing seven Christians.

Christians were accused of provoking violence in a supplementary version of the Police First Information Report (FIR) that was lodged in the wake of Gojra tragedy.

“Christians did not provoke violence rather they suffered it (the violence),” he stated. “This is a false case. It has no truth in it. We are ready to lay down any sacrifice for the Christian community.”

Critics believe that Christians were named in the FIR to pressure them into brokering reconciliation with Muslims.

A Pakistani court on Saturday, September 19, released some 18 Muslim men who were arrested under Anti Terrorism Act. The decision evoked sharp criticism from the Christian human right workers in Pakistan .

An emergency was imposed in Gojra on Wednesday, September 23, in a bid to ward off Muslims who had planned to stage a planned “peaceful protest.”

On August 1, protest demonstration by Muslims of Gojra against alleged blasphemy by Christian residents of Korian, a village in Punjab province, was also labeled as “peaceful” by Muslims but it ended up in the torching of Christians’ houses, plundering of cash, valuables and livestock of Christians and the brutal killing of seven Christians.

The violence forced many Christians to flee the area to safety. Most of them have not returned to the area, fearing further trouble from Islamists.

Bishop John visited the Christian colony in Gojra along with the Deputy Superintendent of the Police. The Bishop said that the Christians did not go to attack Muslims rather Muslims “wreaked violence on Christian residents of Gojra.”

He criticized the local administration for playing a partial role. The Christians, he maintained, suffered twin injustices: They lost their lives, properties, cash and valuables on one hand and, on the other, police registered cases against innocent Christians. He demanded that the two Christian men arrested by the police should be immediately released.

Catholic priest, Fr. Shafique, said he visited the Christian colony on Wednesday along with the Deputy Superintendent of the police and District Police officer of Toba Tek Singh.

He said he had meeting with Muslim scholars and consensus was arrived at the meeting that both sides would try to ensure maintenance of peace in Gojra.