Hundreds of Pakistani Christians Protest Torture of Youths Accused of Blasphemy

ICC Note: More than 200 Christians gathered in protest outside of the Punjab Assembly in Lahore demanding justice for two Christian youths tortured by police. Patras Masih and his cousin Sajid Masih were tortured by police earlier this week as officials attempted to force the Christians to confess to committing blasphemy. On February 19, Patras was accused of sharing a blasphemous Facebook post which nearly led to riots in Shahdara.    

03/02/2018 Pakistan (UCAN) – Catholic and Protestant churches in Pakistan have started a movement to demand justice for Christian cousins accused of blasphemy.

“Justice for Sajid, Justice for Patras,” cried Pastor Riaz Malik as he pointed his finger at a photograph of Sajid Masih, 26, who jumped from the fourth floor of the Punjab headquarters of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) in a suicide attempt on Feb. 23 while being interrogated with his cousin.

Cousin Patras Masih, 18, was arrested on Feb. 19 for allegedly posting an insulting photo of the burial place of the Prophet Muhammad on a Facebook account.

Sajid Masih claims he was being punished for an act allegedly committed by his cousin and that security authorities had ordered the two men to engage in a homosexual act as they attempted to force confessions from them both. Critics say police duress in such cases is common in Pakistan.

Pastor Malik was joined at a protest on March 2 by more than 200 Christians including two Church of Pakistan bishops. Teams from Caritas Pakistan and the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP) also attended the protest in front of the Punjab Assembly in Lahore.

Speakers demanded an independent inquiry into the case, a fair trial and access to justice for the accused, who are from Shahadra near Lahore.

“We are all Sajid and Patras Masih. Do not push us to the wall. Sexual harassment by police is both immoral and irreligious. Sajid is a kid and a Pakistani. We demand proper medical treatment for him,” said Bishop Azad Marshall of Raiwind in his address to the gathering.

Irfan Mufti, director of the South Asia Partnership Pakistan, condemned religious discrimination in state polices and laws. “Injustice will cripple this society. We are not here to demand mercy,” he said.

The protest was organized by the Pakistan Christian Action Committee (PCAC), which was formed at a March 1 meeting at the National Council of Churches in Pakistan.

“The committee will function as a permanent ecumenical entity to counter the increasing cases of violence against minority Christians. Peaceful protests will be carried out all over the country until the Christian youths get justice. The ongoing persecution has become a national issue. We are also ready for martyrdom,” said Pastor Amjat Niamat, convener of the PCAC.

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