Mangta Masih lost her thumb when a mob attacked her home, a day after young Catholics were beaten in a predominantly Muslim village in Okara District, Punjab Province, Pakistan.
âWe hid our women inside while they tried to break in. One of them grabbed me from behind and another hit with a sickle blade. I tried to prevent the hit with my right hand. I fell and they kept beating us with batons, âthe 45-year-old worker told UCA News.
âThey were armed with glass bottles, stones, axes, batons and bricks. Others used stairs to get to our roofs and started breaking our furniture. We begged to spare the women but the attack continued for half an hour.
Fear gripped 80 Christian families in the village of Chak 5 after a mob of more than 200 Muslims broke into their homes on May 15. Masih, who is not a surname but used to identify a Pakistani man as a Christian, is one of the eight Christians with broken bones. The deputy local police superintendent visited the site on May 16 and assured residents to record an initial Section 452 briefing report (house intrusion after preparation for injury, assault or sequestration).
Christian activists shared disturbing images of the attack in the diocese of Faisalabad on social networks.
âThey broke the locks, grabbed our hair and pulled us one by one. Young girls have been assaulted and left with torn clothes, âsaid a woman lying among the pile of injured villagers with broken bones.
Weak administration encourages such attacks on religious minorities
According to Father Khalid Mukhtar, pastor of St. Thomas Catholic Church in Chak 5, the attack was triggered following a May 14 attack on young Catholics.
âThe boys were cleaning the church when one of the Muslim owners, passing by the church, accused them of throwing dust at him. They attacked the boys and then attacked 15 houses in our community the next day, âthe priest said.
âThe weakness of the administration encourages such attacks on religious minorities. The culprits are usually freed without scot. Religion is used to settle personal scores. Residents fear another attack.
Father Mukhtar organized a meeting of the members of the parish committee on May 16 at St. Thomas Church, took statements from the injured and lodged a complaint with the local police station.
In a Facebook post, Father Khalid Rashid Asi, director of the Diocesan Commission for Harmony and Interfaith Dialogue of the Diocese of Faisalabad, called it an act of terrorism. It has been shared by over 50.
Last month, two Christian nurses were arrested by police after an initial information report under Section 295-B of the Blasphemy Act was drawn up by a doctor at the Faisalabad Civil Hospital , who accused them of scratching a sticker with the inscription “Durood Shareef”, a greeting. for the Prophet Muhammad. A similar crowd gathered at the hospital where a staff member injured one of the nurses in a knife attack.
In March, an Ahmadi place of worship in the village of Garmola Virkan, in the province of Punjab, was attacked by a crowd of clerics with the help of the police. They demolished the dome, the minarets of the building and desecrated the Kalma (the Islamic proclamation of faith) inscribed on them.
Church leaders and human rights groups say blasphemy allegations have often been used to intimidate religious minorities and settle personal scores.
Pastor Irfan James condemned the recent attacks.
âA famous televangelist, visiting abroad, told foreign news agencies that he loves Muslims and Muslims love him. I wish someone would love her like that. We face the persecution in Pakistan every day. This is our reality, âhe said.
âThe families of these pastors are granted political asylum in other countries. They lie. They should apologize to the nation. “
All religious minorities and sects – already vulnerable in Pakistan – have the right to expect the state to protect their places of worship
According to the Pakistan Human Rights Commission 2020 annual report, crimes and discrimination against religious minorities continued unabated.
âReligious minorities in Pakistan continue to be relegated to the status of second-class citizens, vulnerable to inherent discriminatory practices, forced conversions and religious violence,â he said.
âAll religious minorities and sects – already vulnerable in Pakistan – have the right to expect the state to protect their places of worship. The state must immediately create a special force for this task, as proposed in the landmark Jillani judgment of 2014.
The court ruling ordered the federal government to create a national council for the rights of minorities and provincial governments to create task forces for religious tolerance, protect places of worship and crack down on hate speech, among other measures.
According to the 2021 annual report of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, conditions in Pakistan continue to worsen as “the government has systematically enforced blasphemy and anti-Ahmadiyya laws and failed to protect religious minorities from abuses by non-state actors â.