05/11/2021 Pakistan (International Christian Concern) – Earlier this month, religious leaders and police peacefully defused a religious dispute over a false blasphemy allegation at a hospital in Lahore, Pakistan. The resolution of this dispute helped avoid communal violence that would have seen three Christian nurses jailed and local Christian communities threatened by mob violence.
On April 27, a video on WhatsApp depicting a Pakistani Muslim in Paris criticizing the response of the Pakistani people and officials to a European Union resolution was attributed to Sakina Mehtab, Jessica Khuram, and Teresa Eric by Muslim coworkers at the Punjab Institute of Mental Health. Using the video as evidence, the Muslim coworkers accused the three Christian nurses of committing blasphemy.
“There was no religious element in it, but a group of nurses spread lies that the video was anti-Islamic and accused me of blasphemy,” Mehtab told Morning Star News. “My life has been put at serious risk with this false allegation and I don’t know if I’ll be able to resume work at the hospital with the fear that someone might attack me from nowhere.”
Muslim hospital staff later forced their way into an auditorium used by Christian staff as chapel. The mob desecrated Bibles and recited Naats, devotional hymns to the Prophet Muhammad, in front of the cross. The mob asserted that there would be no more Christian prayer gatherings allowed in the auditorium.
However, on May 3, leaders from both the Christian and Muslim community met to resolve the alleged incident. According to the agreement between the community leaders, the allegations against the three Christian nurses resulted from a “misunderstanding” and the nurses apologized for sharing the controversial video.
The agreement also went on to state that, “It will be the responsibility of all the staffers to prevail in love and religious harmony. The Christians will continue to use the auditorium as a chapel for weekly worship as before.”
Police did not register a First Information Report (FIR) against the three nurses who were falsely accused of blasphemy. This delay in the filing the FIR likely provided the time necessary to defuse the conflict.
“The church leadership, police, and hospital administration did a good job to calm down the situation,” Tariq Bhatti, a local human right defender told International Christian Concern (ICC). “Otherwise, a charged mob of Muslims would have done huge damage to the neighborhoods of the Christian staff of the mental hospital.”
In Pakistan, false accusations of blasphemy are widespread and often motivated by personal vendettas or religious hatred. Accusations are highly inflammatory and have the potential to spark mob lynchings, vigilante murders, and mass protests.
In January, Tabita Nazir Gill, a Christian nurse from Karachi was falsely accused of blasphemy by a Muslim coworker. She has been forced into hiding after police were pressured into filing an FIR against her by a mob of enraged Muslims. On April 9, police in Faisalabad arrested two more Christian nurses who were accused of blasphemy after allegedly damaging a sticker inscribed with Islamic verses.
For interviews, please contact Addison Parker: email@example.com.