Hundreds of Christian Families Flee Potential Mob Violence
02/20/2017 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that Patras Masih, an 18-year-old Pakistani Christian from Shahdra, a neighborhood located outside of Lahore, was accused of committing blasphemy on Monday, February 19. Following the accusation, a mob of hundreds of local Muslim radicals gathered outside the neighborhood, demanding that Masih be arrested and publicly hanged.
According to local Christians, the blasphemy allegation stems from a social media post Masih shared on his Facebook account approximately two months ago. The Facebook post included an image of an Islamic symbol local Muslims found blasphemous.
On Monday, February 19, news of the Facebook post spread throughout the neighborhood and instigated the formation of a mob. Under the leadership of a local Islamic political party, Labbaik-Ya-Rasool Allah, the mob blocked Ferozepur road, the main road leading to Shahdra, chanting slogans against Masih and other Christians. The mob also threatened to set Masih’s house on fire.
Following the protests, Masih was arrested by police and charged with committing blasphemy against Islam. Prior to arresting Masih, police also arrested Masih’s father, Indrias Masih, as well as Pastor Safiniya, the pastor of Bithynia Church in Shahdra.
Tensions in Shahdra remain high. Approximately 100 Christian families, including Masih’s family, have fled Shahdra, fearing further violence. In response, police have been deployed to Shahdra and charged with preventing further mob actions.
In Pakistan, false accusations of blasphemy are widespread and often motivated by personal vendettas or religious hatred. In the past 30 years, more than 1,500 individuals have been accused of committing blasphemy. Religious minorities, including Christians, make up the majority of these accusations despite the fact that religious minorities only make up 3.6% of Pakistan’s total population.
William Stark, ICC’s Regional Manager, said, “Our thoughts and prayers at ICC go out to the Christians of Shahdra as they face this difficult situation. The abuse of Pakistan’s notorious blasphemy laws must be curbed. Too often these laws have been a tool in the hands of extremists seeking to stir up religiously motivated violence against minority communities. Without real reform, religious minorities, including Christians, will face more false blasphemy accusations and the extreme violence that accompanies them.”
For interviews with William Stark, Regional Manager, please contact Olivia Miller, Communications Coordinator: firstname.lastname@example.org