Thursday, January 12, 2006

Accuser retracts blasphemy charge against Pakistani Christian

I'll repost the whole story here:

Jan. 11 (AsiaNews) - A blasphemy charge against a Pakistani man, which had ignited anti-Christian violence in the town of Sangla Hill, has been withdrawn.

The Muslim man who had accused Yousif Masif of insulting Islam has signed a statement admitting that the charge was based on "mere suspicion." The retraction appears likely to end any change that Masif will face the severe punishment that Pakistani law allows for anyone who speaks disparagingly of Islam. The Christian man had always said that he was innocent of the charges.

After the accusation was withdrawn, Christian and Muslim leaders in Sangla Hill signed a "document of peace and reconciliation," ending several weeks of high tension between the two religious groups.

In November, after the original charge was lodged against Masih, Muslim leaders delivered fiery sermons denouncing the alleged offense. In response, on November 12 an angry Muslim mob destroyed three Christian churches, a convent, two Catholic schools, the homes of a Protestant pastor and a Catholic parish priest, a girls’ hostel and the homes of some Christians.

There is an earlier Story (Link) that says, in part:

Local Christians told Daily Times that they had to opt for a compromise because “the government’s role in resolving the issue is not encouraging”. They also referred to a Lahore High Court judicial inquiry into a similar incident in Shanti Nagar in 1997, when a Christian village was burnt “but no action was taken”.

Another story (link) says:

Masih was accused of setting fire to a ‘Quran Mahal’, a room used to store old copies of the Quran. Suniara and others lodged a First Information Report with the police on November 11 accusing him of blasphemy, and Masih was arrested the same night. It later emerged that the accusations were made by Muslims who owed Masih gambling debts. (The red and italics are mine)

A judicial inquiry was conducted into the attacks on churches but the report has not been made public. The men accused of attacking the churches and other Christian properties were not arrested.

And Pakistan is our ally? I'm glad the people there were able to work it out for themselves. It would have been a shame to bother the government with such a small problem. They have much bigger problems: They play India in Cricket this week. You know what, Go India. I would have said that anyway, since I have a good and dear friend from India.

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