Woman accused of blasphemy freed with Muslim help * Fear has silenced Christians : Pak Archbishop Lawrence Saldanha

December 2, 2011 by  
Filed under newsletter-asia

Woman Accused for BlasphemyPakistan, November 21, 2011: Christians are grateful to the Muslim community for conducting an “in-depth investigation” before they would condemn someone for blasphemy, a crime punishable with death or life in prison in Pakistan. Thus, they have prevented an “untoward incident over a sensitive issue,” said Fr Naveed Arif, a priest at the Holy Rosary Catholic Church in Faisalabad. Speaking to AsiaNews, he could not hide his satisfaction over the outcome of the case, which he describes as “an example in inter-confessional harmony” with Islam.

The case involved a Christian woman, Agnes Bibi, who was accused of defaming the name of the prophet Muhammad. Arrested for blasphemy, she had the original accusation dismissed and the case against her reduced to a lower charge. This allowed her to apply and get bail. “I hope a culture of peace and religious harmony prevails whenever controversies arise in Pakistan,” the priest said, “because Christianity teaches us peace and harmony and is against intolerance and violence.”

Agnes Bibi (pictured), 50, is from Abin-e-Mariam Colony, Faisalabad. In order to undermine the position of Christians in a property dispute with Muslims, she was accused of blasphemy. On 16 February 2011, a complaint was filed against her and she was taken into custody three days later following an interrogation by a magistrate.

An in-depth investigation began on 5 March. After months of work and a number of depositions, the original charge was changed from blasphemy to that of “Promoting enmity between different groups” under Article 153-A of the Pakistan Penal Code. Agnes Bibi told AsiaNews that in prison she prayed for her release, and that she was happy the judge granted her bail. Her husband, Bashir Masih, 52, said that he had to take out a loan to pay for the bail imposed by the judge. “My wife is very sick and I have to raise money for her medical treatment,” he added.

– shafique s khokhar

Fear has silenced Christians : Pak Archbishop Lawrence Saldanha

Mumtaz Hussain Qadri Pakistan

A poster of Malik Mumtaz Hussain Qadri, the convicted killer of Salman Taseer, governor of Punjab, at a rally in Karachi (Photo: CNS)

Pakistan, November 21, 2011: Fear has silenced the voice of Pakistani Christians since the political murder of Shahbaz Bhatti last spring, said the retired archbishop of Lahore, Pakistan.

“People are very sad, very bitter. They said, ‘If that happens to him what happens to us?'” Archbishop Lawrence Saldanha said in mid-November.

Bhatti’s killers remain at large. The convicted murderer of Salman Taseer, the former governor of Punjab, was greeted in court with rose petals and garlands. In an atmosphere of impunity for anyone who kills a Christian, educated Pakistani Christians are getting out of the country. Those who remain are keeping their heads down and their mouths shut, said Archbishop Saldanha.

“In such a situation, minorities don’t have much place. There’s no tolerance for other religions,” he said. “Either you convert or you leave. This is the choice.”

Archbishop Saldanha moved to Toronto in early November, joining his extended family in the city’s east end, where he hopes to involve himself locally in parish ministry. He spoke to The Catholic Register, Canadian Catholic weekly, in mid-November.

He said that in the more than 50 years since his priestly ordination, he has seen his country slide from corrupt oligarchy to military rule to mob rule.

“Everything is a big mess there — economically, socially, religiously,” he said.

– catholicnews

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