Jail Bible study is halted in Pakistan

By August 9, 2007

Pakistan (MNN/CDN) — Pakistani officials have halted all Bible classes for Christian prisoners in a Punjab jail, isolating the inmate who taught the classes and barring a local pastor from his weekly visits, a non-governmental organization (NGO) working in prisons reported.

Protestant pastor Munir Phool has been refused entry to Kasur city's district jail for his weekly Sunday visits since June 25, when Catholic prisoner Dil Awaiz was put in a high-security cell and tortured, according to Sharing Life Ministries Pakistan (SLMP).

A police official denied that Phool was still banned from visiting the jail on Sundays and claimed not to remember the exact details of the incident that had ended the Bible classes.

Phool, who managed to speak with Awaiz during regular visiting hours yesterday, said that the prisoner and former Bible teacher had been targeted by a former jail deputy superintendent who abused Christian prisoners.

Awaiz, 33, told Phool that Muslim inmates became angry on June 25 when a Christian prisoner drank from one of their water glasses. Many lower-income Muslims in Pakistan consider Christians unclean and refuse to share eating utensils and other physical objects with them.

Awaiz said that Deputy Superintendent Sheikh Akram responded by forcing the Christian man to drink out of a glass used for cleaning toilets. Later that day, when Akram heard Awaiz teaching the Christian inmates that, as Christians, they should expect persecution, he challenged Awaiz for implying that jail staff members were harassing the minority inmates, Phool said.

The deputy superintendent had Awaiz beaten and thrown in a high-security cell, deprived of contact with other Christian prisoners. The remaining Christian inmates, 55 out of approximately 2,000 prisoners in the jail, were forced to discontinue their Bible classes since none of them could read or write.

Jail staff members placed Christian prisoner Munir Rehmat, 39, into a high-security cell several days later after he inquired about resuming Bible classes, Phool said.

The pastor said that both Awaiz and Rehmat remain in high-security detention but are well physically.

 

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