Pak: Blasphemy case against 55 christians discharged

October 18, 2014 by  
Filed under newsletter-asia

Pakistani ChristiansPakistan, October 13, 2014: Charges against 55 Pakistani Christians who were falsely accused of blasphemy have been dropped after a written compromise was agreed between the Muslim accuser and the believers involved.

The accusation of blasphemy was made against a group of Christians in a small village in Tehsil Samandri district, Faisalabad, on 3 September following a dispute with a gang of Muslims over the use of land for a graveyard. Thirteen Christians, including a twelve-year old boy, were arrested; they have now been released.

The Christians were originally charged under section 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code, which refers to defiling the name of Muhammad and carries the death penalty. Remarkably, following the intervention of Barnabas-funded Christian lawyers, this charge was later overturned in a rare move by police.

The accused Christians were instead charged with violating a place of worship or cemetery (section 297 of the Pakistan Penal Code), which does not carry the death penalty. On 30 September, Barnabas Fund received confirmation that this charge has now also been dropped after a written compromise was reached between Muhammad Iqbal, who made the accusation, and the Christians.

The dispute took place after the Christians had acquired verbal permission from a sympathetic Muslim landowner to convert a disused Muslim graveyard into a Christian cemetery. On 3 September, Christians began preparing the land for burying their own dead. This upset local Muslims, who attacked the Christians.

Although the Christians apologised and said that they would not use the land, the blasphemy case was then registered against them. When the thirteen Christians were subsequently arrested, police raided their homes, breaking down the gates and even threatening the believers with death. Many of the remaining Christian families fled their homes after Muslims threatened to set fire to their houses.

The Christians needed to acquire Muslim-owned land to bury their dead because there is a shortage of Christian burial land in the village. The area is home to more than 350 Christian families whereas Muslim families number over 1,000, are generally richer and own more land.

Pakistan’s “blasphemy laws” are frequently misused to settle personal scores. Christians and other religious minorities are particularly vulnerable to these accusations; a Christian’s testimony in court is worth only half that of a Muslim. Those accused of blasphemy are extremely vulnerable to being attacked.

– barnabas team

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