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Pakistan: Christian Man Goes Into Hiding When Told ‘convert or die’

ICC Note

A group of Muslims told Masih Gill to conver to Islam or face death. He is now in hiding fearing for his life. The Muslims threatened Masih after he defended his Christian faith.

04/05/2011 Pakistan (Spero Forum)-“Convert or die”. Masih Gill, a Christian from the city of Mardan, in the province of “Khyber Pakhtunkhwa” (Northern Pakistan), was threatened with these words by a group of Muslims with whom he had been speaking, after the recent episode of the burning of the Koran in the US.

This event caused violent reactions in Pakistan (three churches attacked in a week) by Muslim extremists. Nearly one dozen UN guards were killed on April 1, while two were beheaded. Local sources say that Masih Gill simply defended his faith, saying that Christians respect all religions and do not nurture hostility towards anyone. The  Muslims then threatened Gill. They also said that they would charge him before Pakistani authorities with blasphemy.

Masih Gill, who is married and has children, is now in hiding while his family is now being harbored at a safe location, thanks to the Masihi Foundation. The foundation is also defending Asia Bibi, a Christian woman who is awaiting the execution of a death sentence following her conviction on charges of blasphemy, according to Muslim law.

The city of Mardan, in fact, is harbors numerous radical Muslim groups which terrorize civilians, especially religious minorities. “His story is one of many, and a fine example of the frustrations that Christians suffer daily”, explained Haroon Masih, Director of the Masihi Foundation.

“We are witnessing an absurd escalation of violence in society. Every day there are attacks with many people killed and injured, as well as places of worship being targeted. In this dramatic situation, however, no one seems to intervene, and the civil authorities do not move,” says a source in the Catholic community, expressing serious concern.

“It’s a difficult time for the Christian community,” remarks Peter Jacob, Executive Secretary of the Commission for Justice and Peace for the Bishops of Pakistan. “We are always working to denounce and combat social discrimination against religious minorities. But now there is also a campaign of anti-Christian hatred and intolerance promoted by Islamic extremist groups. Christians are suffering and live in fear. Now the community’s hopes lie in the strength, good will and talent of the new Special Adviser for religious minorities, Paul Bhatti, brother of slain Shabaz Bhatti – a member of Pakistan’s cabinet and a defender of human rights. Shabaz was the only Christian on the cabinet. He was assassinated in March 2011 in still unresolved circumstances as some blame a lack of adequate security following death threats directed at him by Muslim religious leaders.

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