Militant Islamists in Pakistan have called for the elimination of Christians and the public hanging of a Christian accused of blasphemy.
According to a news release from human rights organization Christian Solidarity Worldwide, or CSW, about 3,000 Muslims gathered for Friday prayers at the Jamia Mosque in Sangla Hill on Dec. 2. It was at that location three weeks earlier that three churches, a school, a convent and Christian homes were attacked in Pakistan’s worst outbreak of anti-Christian violence since 2002.
CSW reported that Islamic leaders using loudspeakers urged Muslims to rise up and eliminate Christians. They also passed a resolution demanding that Yousaf Masih, a Christian accused of desecrating the Quran, be publicly hanged.
According to CSW, a Dec. 2 report by the Catholic Church’s National Commission for Justice and Peace stated that the speakers also demanded the unconditional release of the 88 Muslims who have been detained by the Pakistani authorities and accused of carrying out the Nov.12 attack on Sangla Hill, about 140 miles south of Islamabad.
CSW reports that on Dec. 9, more than 2,500 Muslims again gathered at Friday prayers to repeat their demands for violence and the release of the 88 accused of attacking Christians and their property.
On Dec. 4, CSW reported, the National Commission for Justice and Peace organized a National Consultation meeting on “Ending Religious Intolerance.” The conference in Lahore brought together religious and civil society leaders from around the country, including representatives of the All Pakistan Minorities Alliance, the Christian Study Centre, the Commission for Peace and Human Development and the Centre of Legal Assistance and Settlement.
The consultation resulted in a joint resolution, which described the Sangla Hill violence as, CSW reported, “merely one manifestation of the alarming level of religious intolerance prevailing in the country, being fuelled by hate speech and discriminatory laws.”
The resolution accused the Pakistani authorities of having “done nothing to defuse the tension,” and of “failing to repair the situation.” It claimed the government was “not admitting the facts and is rather protecting the instigators of mob violence.” Procedural delays have meant vital evidence has been lost, which has made the judicial process “ineffective,” the resolution claimed.
The delegates at the consultation urged the government to bring the perpetrators of the violence in Sangla Hill to justice “without any delay,” CSW reported, release innocent blasphemy prisoners such as Masih, who is “clearly victimized due to his religion,” and repeal the blasphemy laws and other discriminatory laws.
Cecil Chaudhry, executive secretary of the All Pakistan Minorities Alliance, and one of Pakistan’s most prominent human rights activists, said in a news release, “Sangla Hill is a test case for the government, as far as putting an end to religious extremism and terrorism is concerned.”
According to the same news release, Chaudhry demanded that the people who misused the loud speakers of mosques to instigate attacks “be immediately arrested, as they had violated the laws legislated by this very government.”
He also urged the government to make public the judicial inquiry report into the incident.
Stuart Windsor, National Director of CSW, said in a statement, “The situation in Pakistan is becoming increasingly tense. We urge the Pakistani Government to bring the perpetrators of violence to justice, and to be bold and repeal the notorious blasphemy laws which are the cause of so much inter-religious strife.”
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