Prosecution for desecration shirked

By June 3, 2011

Pakistan (MNN) — Armed Muslims disrupted the church service of Numseoul Presbyterian Church outside Lahore, Pakistan on Sunday, May 29. The Muslims cursed the congregation, smashed a glass altar, desecrated Bibles and a cross, and man-handled those who tried to stop them.

Pastor Ashraf Masih of Numseoul Presbyterian Church in Lakhoki Kahna village stated that Muhammad Shoaib, nephew of former MPA Mansha Sindhu, entered the church with four armed men carrying rifles and pistols. They cursed the congregation for "disturbing the peace of the area by worshiping on loudspeakers." However, the loudspeakers were inside the church and are less disturbing than the loudspeakers used by Muslims for their own religious practices.

"The loudspeakers on mosques are used all day long for prayers and sermons," Pastor Masih said. "I fail to understand why this man has turned against us the last few months."

Masih reported that after the Muslims left the church, he called the police. When the police arrived, members of the congregation showed them the desecrated Bibles and cross, expressing how upset they were with the disruption and damages. They then led police to Shoaib's house where they hoped the police would find and question him on his actions. After showing them the house, the Christians returned to the church site where journalists were waiting for news and representatives of Christian support organizations were there to encourage.

However, the next word the congregation got from the police was that they had not found Shoaib at his home.

"This was a complete lie because Shoaib was at his home all this time, and someone told us that he had prepared lunch for Inspector Khan and the other policemen," Pastor Masih said.

That is when Masih's suspicions were confirmed. The police were not going to enforce justice.

"I was later told by a local Christian that the area's police in-charge, Inspector Arshad Khan, was appointed there by Sindhu and he would try his best to save the former MPA's nephew," Pastor Masih said.

Masih and a few others from his congregation decided to go to the police station to register their complaint with area Superintendant of Police Malik Awais. "On reaching the police station, we found the officials present there reluctant to register a First Information Report against Sindhu's nephew," he said. "They also tried to pressure us by saying that we were making false allegations against the Muslims."

The police refused to listen even when the Christians told them that their colleagues had witnessed the damage done at the church and that journalists had photographed evidence of the damage done. But then when the church members threatened to block the road in protest unless the police registered the case, the officers became anxious. Apparently, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif was present in the area that day to inaugurate a housing scheme, which added pressure on police to keep the Christians from blocking the road in protest, Christian leaders said.

"The police panicked and started requesting us to reconcile with Shoaib and his men," Pastor Masih said. "In the meantime, Awais also arrived at the police station, followed closely by Mansha Sindhu. Both men started asking us to let go of the case."

According to Masih, after an hour-long negotiation with Christian representatives, Sindhu finally agreed to make Shaoib publicly apologize for his disruptive behavior. It was obvious that an apology was the only form of justice the church was going to receive since the police were openly in support of Sindhu and quite hostile towards the Christians making their complaints.

"Shoaib said that he was drunk at that time and had lost his temper," Masih said.

However, Awais, the police official, was quoted as saying that Shoaib was not drunk, had not carried a weapon and had not desecrated Bibles. The police superintendent declined to answer calls from Compass Direct News about why the former legislator's nephew had apologized if he was innocent and why police hadn't registered vandalism charges.

Apparently this was not the first time Shoaib has harassed village Christians. Four months ago, Shaoib had roughly man-handled 70-year-old church elder Bohru Masih and threatened him to stop church services because he didn't want to hear Christians singing hymns.

Napolean Quyyam, central leader of the Pakistan People's Party Minorities Wing, stated, "The Christians there were faced with a very influential Muslim politician. Had there been a strong Christian leadership in Pakistan, such incidents would not have happened this frequently."

Violence continues to be an issue for the church in Pakistan. Please pray that Christians would be strong in suffering persecution and that soon the political powers would see the need to enforce justice in all cases of violence and hatred.

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