Thursday evening, Savan Masih, a sweeper in Pakistan, was drinking with his friend, Shahid Imran, in Shahid’s barber shop, something they do regularly. The next day, Friday, Shahid accused Savan of blaspheming the prophet Mohammed, a crime punishable by death in Pakistan (although that sentence has never been carried out). The accusation was broadcast from a mosque and soon more than 2,000 people entered the Christian section of Lahore, threatening to burn down the houses if the Christians didn’t leave the city. Many left.
On Saturday, more than 3,000 Muslims arrived in the Christian section, and looted and burned down more than 150 homes. They beat people who had not fled, including the elderly and children. Thankfully, no deaths have been reported. One of the houses burned was that of Masih, where he lived with his parents and his 3 children. He has been arrested on charges of blasphemy.
The rest of the weekend, Christians protested in cities throughout Pakistan. Sixty people were injured, including some police, who shot into the air and used batons to try to disperse the crowds. The Punjab Law Ministers warned Christians not to take the law into their own hands, and on Monday Pakistan’s Supreme Court issued a ruling that the police had failed to protect the people during Saturday’s riot. “We live in constant fear of being accused of blasphemy,” one resident told World Watch Monitor. “One day they will get us for blasphemy,” said another Christian worker. “They always say we should stop teaching people about God’s ways and freedom, and if we do not they will come looking for us and make up a case against us.” Christians have been living in the area since Pakistan and India were partitioned in 1947. “We live here because God has called us to minister and reach those who have never been able to read or write,” said a teacher who lives in the area. “Many of our students and the people we work with have been abused and have faced persecution in so many different ways.” Christians are the largest minority group in Pakistan, with more than 18 million people.
On Monday, the National Assembly condemned the attack on the Christian community. Those who have lost their houses have been offered 500,000 rupees (about $5,000 US) to rebuild their homes.
What you can do:
Pray for the Christians of Pakistan
Pray for the country to rework the blasphemy laws
Write to your representatives to express your concern over the conditions in Pakistan
Pray for those are are imprisoned for false accusations.
Pray for Savan and his family
Pray for the Christians who lost their homes
Donate money to support persecuted Christians:
Voice of the Martyrs
Centre for Legal Aid, Assistance and Settlement
We lift up these people who are trapped in a system that routinely uses false accusations of blasphemy to settle personal scores. We remember Asia Bibi who has been imprisoned for four years, accused by her neighbor of drinking water from a communal cup and so contaminating it for the Muslims, Shamim Bibi, who is waiting to hear the verdict on her current trial where 2 out of the 3 “witnesses” deny hearing Shamim say anything blasphemous, and Rimsha Masih, vindicated by her trial after a local imam planted “evidence” in her backpack. All these women have been falsely accused, and their lives, along with their family’s lives, have been shattered. Once again, a long time friend has made an accusation, which was broadcast to the public with no evidence to support the charge, and 150 families are now without homes, many families are in hiding, and the entire Christian community lives in fear. Father, these things ought not to be. We ask You to intervene on behalf of Your children in Pakistan. Work in the hearts of the leaders to rethink and rework the current blasphemy laws. We pray for Savan who is now in prison. Strengthen him, flood him with Your presence, and make his way clear for him. Vindicate him. Support his family, Lord. He has 3 children who need him–be a Father to them. He has elderly parents who are now responsible for his children, and they have no place to live. Provide for them, Father. Protect them. Display Your power in each one of their lives. Prepare all your people around the world for the persecution that is crashing down on them. Prepare us, Lord, to stand firm, no matter what. For Your sake, and the glory of Jesus, Amen.
Sources: Centre for Legal Aid, Assistance and Settlement