Violent clashes erupted in Dhoop Sari last night (24th May 2015), in a densely populated Christian Colony within Gulshan Ravi, an area of
Lahore, after a 27 year old Christian man was accused of desecrating a Quran.
The accused man was named as Humayun Faisal Masih who worked
as a local street sweeper, and he was accused of the blasphemy after Muslim youths allegedly found burnt shreds of the Quran in a pile of garbage he had placed
his swept rubbish into. The Muslim youth then proceeded to film the garbage that contained the shreds of the Quran and highlighted this desecration
via internet based, social media sites. The youth also started to promulgate the blasphemy through the local community and told a local Imam who gathered
his followers to 'attack Christian blasphemers,' via his mosque PA system.
Enraged Muslims of Samnabad beat Humayan who was badly injured before he was arrested and taken to Gulshan Ravi thana (Gulshan
Ravi police station) where he was charged under Pakistan's notorious Blasphemy law - section 295c of the Pakistan Penal Code. Mr Humayan Masih
is reported to be mentally unstable and hence this most recent attack has been described by local people as unjust, unwarranted and false. His wife had
left him (two months earlier) and taken their two children with her after he was diagnosed with a mental problem for which he had been receiving regular treatment over the last three years.
As the news of the desecration spread, a mob of between 600-700 Muslim rioters from the neighbouring communities gathered together and blocked
roads, seeking revenge against the desecration of the Quran, shouting 'kill blaspheming Christians'. It is believed this pressure resulted
in the Police First Incident Report (FIR) containing the serious charge of a blasphemy. Arsonists and looters attacked Christian homes for 4 hours before Police stopped
them. Local rangers are now protecting the Christian community from a further attack, but have warned that they may not have a force large enough
to stop any future mob violence. By the time the original attack was stopped several homes had already been looted and badly damaged. Local
Christian residents of the area also reported that the mob attempted to burn down many further homes and fired guns during their rioting. Threats have been received by the community of a further
impending larger-scale attack. Hundreds of Christians have already fled the area to live with relatives temporarily until the hatred simmers down. It is expected
their homes will be looted whilst they are away, a crime that inevitably follows refuge seeking.
Ashraf Gill, Youth President of Saint Joseph's church, said:
"Muslim rioters came with guns, daggers, hockey sticks and irons, they came with intention to kill or maim. They have looted our properties and caused serious damage to them. We have done nothing to hurt them so why have they treated us so harshly?
"Humayan is a poor sweeper, what purpose would he have for desecrating the Quran? He has been brutally treated for simply undertaking his regular job of street sweeping. This is a woeful injustice."
Local Police prevented the burning of the home of Humayan Masih and Hazrat Yousaf Church. However, DIG operations Dr. Haider Ashraf suffered a head injury in doing so, and police deployed in the area had to resort to a baton charge on the protesters. Notably a heavy
contingent of police and rangers has been deployed in the area to make sure there are not more riots. Most of the Christians who reside in the area
have fled their homes to seek refuge as the situation in the area remains tense.
Wilson Chowdhry, Chairman of the BPCA said:
"This latest false blasphemy allegation and the rioting that ensued after local Muslims were stirred up by hate speech in local mosques, is indicative of the low worth and infidel status of Christians in Pakistan. That a man could face a life or death sentence simply for undertaking his role as a sweeper is a poor indictment of the country's legal system. Worse still as a government employee should he not be protected against false accusations such as these and compensated for his losses?"
Our officer Mehwish Bhatti has visited the location and is building a list of victims that we can help through this most recent attack. She said:
"Many victims will need temporary shelter, others will need help with building repairs and help with restoration of lost items. Innocent Christians now live in fear of another attack and Lahore has almost become a no go area for Christians. Local Muslims seem to desire reasons to attack Christians and latch onto any allegation, this is an early warning for the future of Christians in the area." Please help us restore the lives of affected Christians.
That peace would be restored to the area once more and that imams would cease to incite Muslims to hatred and violence against Christians
For Humayan Masih's safety and swift release
For God's protection for local Christians and for their safe return to the district
For God's provision that they might repair and make their homes secure again, and replace possessions lost in the looting and fires
That Pakistan's blasphemy laws would be abolished or amended
If you would like to donate towards supporting Lahore Christians then please use these bank details:
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Ref: Love for Lahore Christians
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Any cheques should be made payable to the BPCA to our address: 57 Green Lane, Ilford, Essex, IG1 1XG.
With your support we hope to change the lives of millions of Christians in Pakistan.
Dhoop Sari burning
Houses were looted and items thrown across streets.
Attempts to burn homes down were thwarted as local communities put out fires themselves.
Many Christians lost their property in the mob attack.
Arson and looting is a common theme for Pakistani Christians.
Christian homes have been left in a destitute state.
Mehwish Bhatti meets with Ashraf Gill President of local Church Youth Association.
Police with better things to do were protecting the home of Humayan.
Houses were left in a mess.
This cupboards was raided and gold jewellery stolen worth £700
Visible damage could be seen on vulnerable vacant properties.
Strong gates could not keep out looters or rioters.