Pakistan (MNN) — Several Muslim groups met in Gojra, Pakistan, Wednesday to hold a press conference call on the government to exonerate religious leaders accused of inciting the anti-Christian attacks that occurred this past weekend. In addition, they threatened to hang the Christian whose alleged blasphemy sparked the violence, even though he was found innocent of the charges.
Muslim groups Jamiyat Islami Gojra (a religious group) and Anjman-e-Tajran (a trade union) initially condemned last weekend's violence in their statements. However, they quickly reversed course by calling for the release of the Ulma and the other clerics named in the official police report.
They further contradicted their initial statement by threatening to hang Talib Masih and others accused of blasphemy in the Gojra bazaar if the government did not arrest him by August 10.
International Christian Concern advocacy coordinator Jeremy Sewall says this isn't unusual for Christians. "Even the accusation of blasphemy–let alone being found guilty of it–will lead to a death sentence for religious minorities because radical Muslims will basically hunt you down and pursue vigilante justice against you, just because you were accused of it," he says.
According to International Christian Concern, this press conference is a sign that the government has not restored rule of law in this area. ICC sees the risk of another outbreak of violence by the government's delay in responding adequately to the situation.
The violence occurred on July 31 and August 1 when mobs of infuriated Muslims attacked and burned over 100 Christian homes after hearing a rumor that Masih and his sons had cut up pieces of the Qur'an to throw in the air during a wedding. A committee investigating the alleged blasphemy has found him innocent.
At least eight Christians were killed, 35 injured, and 45 missing after the attacks.
Despite the regular persecution against Christians, the church is growing. Will this slow it down? Sewall says, "It's not going to stop it's growth. If anything, it will cause the Christians to rally behind what has happened and continue to be steadfast in their faith."
While the Pakistani government claims Christians and Muslims get along fine in Pakistan, ICC urges you to call the Embassy of Pakistan and tell them about these atrocities. They are asking believers to urge President Zardari to uphold the rights of religious minorities and take immediate action to prosecute the leaders of the mob, especially the radical clerics who called for the attacks.
Sewall says, "They don't want to lose face. And the more than we can show them we're watching and listening and we know what's going on in Pakistan, I believe the more likely it will be that they will try to take action."
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