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Christians in Pakistan Fear More Violence Over Cartoon Row

Monday, February 6, 2006 | Tag Cloud

By Santosh Digal, BosNewsLife Southeast Asia Reporter

ISLAMABAD/MANILA -- Christians in Pakistan feared more attacks against them Sunday, February 5, after at least one church was attacked by militants as anger spreads throughout the Muslim world over Prophet Mohammad cartoons in European media.

Since Friday, February 3, Muslim men and women attacked one church in a injuring at least two believers in Kanwanlit village some 105 kilometers (168 miles) from Lahore, the capital of Pakistan's Punjab province, BosNewsLife Southeast Asia Bureau learned.

During the attack attackers reportedly smashed doors, window and the altar of the church.

"About 20 people including women attacked the church and injured two people including an old woman who was pistol-whipped," the church said in a statement to Pakistan's Daily Times newspaper.

"SPAT ON BIBLE"

They also "spat on the Bible and hymn books after trampling them upon their feet," eyewitnesses added. The attackers allegedly asked accompanying Muslim women "to teach the Christian women a lesson." Armed Muslim men kept Christian men at gun point, apparently foiling their effort to come to the rescue of Christian women.

The Muslim women "tortured" the Christian women, and at least two of them, identified only as 70-year old Verro and 50-year old Salima, sustained critical injuries, church sources said. Verro's two legs were apparently broken by the Muslim women.

Locals claimed that police only appeared at the scene after the attack. There was no immediate response from police officials.

LAND DISPUTE?

The National Commission for Justice and Peace, a human rights body of the Catholic Church of Pakistan, reportedly said the incident was related to a lawsuit against Muhammad Iqbal, who had forcibly occupied church land, although Christians believe the cartoons published in European media played a role as well.

Friday's attack resembled incidents elsewhere in Punjab province where on November 13, churches and Christian homes in Sangla Hill were attacked by Muslims angered over the alleged desecration of the Koran.

Human rights watchers say the recent incidents highlight the precarious situation Pakistan's minority Christians are facing. More attacks on Churches in Pakistan are feared following printing and reprinting of caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad by European publications.

WEAKER COMMUNITIES

"Violence against weaker communities is resurfacing because the government failed to deal effectively with similar incidents that happened in the past," said Archbishop Lawrence John Saldanha, and Peter Jacob, the chairman of the NCJP in published remarks.

"The most recent example is Sangla Hill where a due process of law has not taken place even 80 days after the desecration and destruction of three churches and Christian properties.”

The NCJP, All Pakistan Minority Alliance and other non-government organizations have condemned the attack and urged the government "to stop religious intolerance in the Punjab." Christians comprise less than 3 percent of Pakistan’s over 162-million, predominantly Muslim, population, according to estimates. (With BosNewsLife Research and reports from Pakistan).

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