Lahore Christians reluctant to return home over fear of reprisals

Police deployed to protect church, minority residents.

Lahore: 

Dozens of Christian families who fled their homes on Sunday night following a mob attack over allegations of blasphemy have yet to return, fearing reprisals from Muslims.

Babu George Salamat, a Catechist at Saint Joseph Catholic Church, said that Church leaders were trying to ensure the safe return of those who fled and are still reluctant to come back.

“They [Christians] are obviously afraid of further violence,” he said, adding that they don’t want to put the lives of their children at risk.

He said that a heavy police deployment has been sent to the church and other streets housing the Christian population.

A mob attacked the Dhoop Saari area on Sunday night following allegations that Humayun Masih, a sweeper and drug addict, was accused of burning the Qur’an. Hundreds of Muslims attacked Christian homes, ransacked their properties and tried to attack Saint Joseph Catholic Church.

But police and paramilitary rangers reached the scene and forcefully dispersed the crowd.

Sunny Masih, a resident of Dhoop Sarri area, told ucanews.com that the possibility of another attack cannot be ruled out.

“Muslims gather in large numbers on every Friday to offer special prayers. Residents are wary of their reaction,” he said.

Cecil Choudhry, Executive Director of the National Justice for Peace and Commission (NCJP), a human rights body of the Catholic Church, said Christians’ reluctance to return was a natural reaction.

“Given the recent history of mob attacks in Joseph Colony and Gojra, people are certainly hesitant, but NCJP and Church leaders are trying to allay their fears,” Chaudhry said. “I must also admit that police have acted responsibly and saved so many lives.”

He lauded the timely intervention of police and called for the arrest of those involved in the mob attack.

According to media reports, Punjab Home Minister Col Shuja Khanzada told lawmakers Tuesday that a prayer leader had made an announcement on the loudspeaker about the blasphemy.

People had gathered following the prayer leader’s call to express their anger over the alleged incident.

The minister was responding to a question raised by Shahzad Monshi, a minority MPA, in the Punjab Assembly.

“In the presence of a law to punish blasphemers, there was no justification for the mob to take the law into their hands. He demanded an effective legislation against those who resort to violence after such incidents.”

“What is the point in punishing the entire community for the sin committed by one person only?” he questioned.

Source: UCAN

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