Pakistan: Christians Flee Homes after Blasphemy Accusation

July 22, 2023

Pakistan is home to over two million Christians. All are at risk at all times of being victimized by false blasphemy accusations or other forms of persecution.

A small number of the Christians in Pakistan are Orthodox. Orthodox Christians in Pakistan are under the spiritual jurisdiction of the Orthodox Metropolitanate of Singapore and South Asia, which comprises all the Orthodox Communities, Parishes, Foundations and Philanthropic Projects in Singapore, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Afghanistan, Brunei, Timor, Maldives, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Sri Lanka, as well as Pakistan.

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

“Christians in Pakistan Flee Homes after Blasphemy Accusation,” Morning Star News, July 20, 2023:

LAHORE, Pakistan (Morning Star News) – A third accusation of blasphemy in less than a month compelled Christians fearful of Islamic retribution to flee their homes in an eastern city in Pakistan this week, sources said.

Muslim crowds including members of Islamic extremist groups blocked the main Sargodha-Faisalabad highway for hours on Sunday (July 16) after mosque announcements urged people in Sargodha to protest posters allegedly bearing derogatory caricatures and comments about Muhammad, the prophet of Islam, and his wife Aisha, that were pasted on mosque walls.

“The situation was already tense in Sargodha after two Christians were arrested and charged with blasphemy, but this incident has put the security of the entire community at risk,” former provincial lawmaker Tahir Naveed Chaudhry told Morning Star News.

The Christian politician told Morning Star News that the 3,500 to 4,000 Christian families of Maryam Town, a suburb of Sargodha, panicked when they heard the announcements.

“The posters were pasted on a mosque’s wall in Green Town which is adjacent to the Christian settlement,” Chauddhry said. “As word of the alleged blasphemy spread, hundreds of angry Muslims started congregating on the highway raising fears of violence in Maryam Town. Thankfully, the police responded in time, and a large contingent was deployed on all entry and exit points of the colony.”

The handwritten posters also reportedly lauded the desecration of the Koran in Sweden last month and were critical of the Abrahamic tradition of animal sacrifice, he added.

“The mosque announcements accused Christians of being involved in the incident because the posters were purportedly written by ‘an unknown soldier of Maryam Town,’” Chaudhry said.

Hundreds of Muslims blocked traffic and burned tires on the Faisalabad road intersection near Maryam Town at about 10 a.m., threatening to take matters into their own hands if police failed to arrest the unknown offender within 48 hours, he said.

The mobs dispersed after police registered a case under Sections 295-A, 295-B, 295-C, and 298-A against an unknown offender and also formed a committee of religious leaders to investigate the incident in coordination with the administration, Chaudhry said.

Another source told Morning Star News that nearly half of the Christian population in the area fled their homes fearing attacks by Muslims.

“Christian settlements across Sargodha district were alarmed when they heard about the protests near Maryam Town,” said Sanawar Balam, a member of the district’s human rights committee. “Though police were deployed in Christian neighborhoods, many Christian families left their homes due to fears of retribution.”

He said that at least 15 Christian men were taken into custody on Sunday based only on their identity cards stating Maryam Town as their address.

“Most of these men were picked up from the streets when they were shopping for groceries or going for some work,” Balam told Morning Star News. “They were released after interrogation but then more people were taken into custody on Monday and Tuesday. “I believe there are four or five men still in police custody.”

Both Chaudhry and Balam expressed suspicions of a conspiracy against Sargodha’s Christians.

“This third incident points to a deliberate attempt to spark religious unrest and target Christians,” Chaudhry said….

Pakistan ranked seventh on Open Doors’ 2023 World Watch List of the most difficult places to be a Christian, up from eighth the previous year.