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Pakistan: Three Christians charged with blasphemy, accused of burning Quran pages

Persecution of Christians in Pakistan: Note that “Mehmood’s wife, Marriam, was quoted as saying that her husband never left the house on Dec. 24 or Dec. 25,” and that “local Christians believe that police tortured Ilyas Masih to force him to admit to seeing the faces of all three Christians so that the arrests could be made to placate area Muslims.”

Pakistan’s draconian blasphemy laws are frequently manipulated and misused in order to victimize Christians and other religious minorities, and leave them with no recourse. Azeem Mehmood, Abbas Gulshan, and Irfan Saleem have been arrested on what appear to be false charges. They are just the latest among many. Christians in Pakistan have also been targeted with accusations of blasphemy that are often just a cover for attempts to settle personal grudges, appropriate their property, or achieve some other end. Pakistan’s blasphemy laws have been used to victimize innumerable innocent people, both Christian and non-Christian. Often this happens with the approval of the relevant authorities.

The Order of Saint Andrew the Apostle, Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, calls upon the international human rights community to bring pressure upon the government of Pakistan to repeal these unjust laws, and allow the Christians of the nation to practice their faith in peace and live in peace.

For previous ChristianPersecution.com coverage of the persecution of Christians in Pakistan, see here.

“3 Pakistani Christians charged with blasphemy, accused of burning Quran pages,” by Anugrah Kumar, Christian Post, January 9, 2021:

Three young Christians in northeastern Pakistan have been charged with blasphemy after area Muslims alleged that pages of the Quran had been burned near some Christian homes to hurt the religious sentiments of Muslims, according to a report.

Police charged the three Christians, identified as Azeem Mehmood, Abbas Gulshan, and Irfan Saleem, from a village named Kotli Muhammad Sadique in Punjab Province’s Narowal district, on Dec. 30, the U.K.-based group Centre for Legal Aid, Assistance and Settlement, known as CLAAS, learned recently.

A court sent Mehmood, who is a member of the Pakistani Army, to judicial custody while it granted bail to the other two Christians, CLAAS said in a statement, adding that while Mehmood was arrested on Dec. 25, Gulshan and Saleem were arrested on Dec. 29.

After the Christmas service, when the congregation of United Presbyterian Church was holding a procession around the church, a large number of policemen arrived. An officer said they had received a complaint that some people had burned pages of the Quran and they were there to investigate the matter.

Some local Muslims who were standing near the church took the police to an ash pile near the homes of Christians. There are about 40 Christian houses near the church.

Shahzad Masih, an uncle of Gulshan and Saleem, was quoted as saying that some local Muslims found the burned pieces of a blue letterbox, which had purportedly been installed on the wall to collect pages containing Quranic verses, near the Christians’ homes.

A local Christian, identified as Ilyas Masih, allegedly told police that he had seen some young men around the fire but he wasn’t able to see their faces due to thick fog. After Friday prayers at a mosque the same day, a large angry mob of Muslims from surrounding villages gathered in the village, demanding the immediate arrest of all Christians.

Local Christians believe that police tortured Ilyas Masih to force him to admit to seeing the faces of all three Christians so that the arrests could be made to placate area Muslims.

Mehmood’s wife, Marriam, was quoted as saying that her husband never left the house on Dec. 24 or Dec. 25.

Mehmood’s brother, Griffin, said that Mehmood had a dispute with Ilyas Masih before he was accused of blasphemy….

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