Christian attacks in Pakistan continue

By July 28, 2010

Pakistan (MNN) — A Catholic nurse trainee nearly died following an attack by a Muslim doctor, who allegedly raped her and threw her from a hospital's fourth-floor window this month.

Compass Direct News reports that the student nurse told media and rights groups that on July 13 several Muslim men, led by Dr. Abdul Jabbar Meammon, beat and raped her, and then threw her from the window of Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Center (JPMC) to keep her from revealing the abuse.

Meammon, who had taken over a room in the all-female wing of the hospital, has a history of abusing Christian nurses, said a hospital administrator. Dr. Seemi Jamali, chief of JPMC's Emergency Department, told Compass that Meammon had been suspended from the hospital seven times for drinking alcohol on the job and other misbehavior, and that he was drunk when he assaulted Ashraf.

A medico-legal officer at the hospital who carried out autopsies, Meammon was forcibly occupying a room in the women-only wing of the doctors' hostel, Jamali said. She added that Meammon is an influential figure backed by a leading political party in Karachi.

The third-year student nurse, Magdalene Ashraf, was unconscious for 56 hours as surgeons fought for her life in the intensive care unit of JPMC; she is still in critical condition. On July 19 she gave a statement to police that has not been released. Later that day, she spoke to media and a lawyer from the Christian Lawyers' Foundation (CLF), saying several men took hold of her at 4:30 p.m. on July 13, and after abusing her for several hours, threw her from the window.

President of Open Doors USA Carl Moeller says this story isn't the only of its kind. "This is the reality that many, many Christians, actually, in Pakistan are facing," he says.

"Christians, by definition, in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan are an underprivileged minority religion in Pakistan, with few rights. In fact, the Christians are at the lowest rung of the social ladder," says Moeller.

Khalid Gill, head of the All Pakistan Minorities Alliance in Punjab Province, told Compass that Meammon had a history of sexually harassing female Christian students at the teaching hospital.

Gill and the Rev. Azher Kaleem, general secretary of the Christian Lawyers' Foundation (CLF), said that after Ashraf was thrown out the window, Meammon also jumped down in order to portray himself as innocent, claiming people trying to harm him were pursuing him as well. His hip injury from the jump was treated at the better-equipped Agha Khan Hospital, where he was hand-cuffed and his feet shackled before being transferred to a holding cell to face charges.

The Rev. Khadim Bhutto of advocacy organization Gawahi Mission Trust told Compass that he had the opportunity to speak with Meammon. According to Bhutto, Meammon said that he was relaxing in his room when Magdalene ran in followed by five unidentified men, from whom both of them eventually fled.

Bhutto says police have only charged Meammon and his accomplices with attempted murder, but that Christian organizations are urging police to file gang-rape charges. He added that police have also arrested Dr. Ferhat Abbas and another doctor identified only as Tayyab and are holding them at an undisclosed location.

Moeller says stories of Muslims attacking Christian women are common. "We've been aware of literally hundreds of rape cases of Christian nurses by doctors going unreported in Pakistan. They have no power. They have no legal recourse."

Since the assault, Christians have staged several demonstrations against religiously-motivated violence such as the alleged assault on Ashraf and the July 19 murder of the Rev. Rashid Emmanuel and his brother, Sajid Emmanuel, who were accused under Pakistan's "blasphemy" laws. The latest demonstrations took place in Karachi on Saturday (July 24), Sargodha the next day, and in Lahore today.

Moeller is encouraging Christians in the West to pray for the church in Pakistan. "When situations like this come up, the church suffers. The evangelism or the outreach is restricted. People tend to get fearful, but there are those who are willing to face any obstacle in order to share the love of Christ with their Muslim neighbors."

It's Open Doors' role to stand with those believers, to encourage them, and to provide them with whatever they need.

As you help Open Doors USA financially, you're being an answer to pray for Christians in Pakistan "by helping them know that they're not forgotten and that their prayers are being answered through the generosity of American Christians."

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