13-March-2013 -- EWTNews Feature |

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Catholic leaders condemn anti-Christian mob in Pakistan

A mob of about 3,000 Muslims drove 150 Christian families from their homes in Pakistan, drawing large-scale protests and condemnations from both Christian and Muslim leaders.

Bishop Sebastian Shaw, the apostolic administrator of Lahore, condemned the violence and called on the government to ensure the safety of citizens, "especially of religious minorities."

"There are people who want to take the law in their own hands and who believe they are above the law. It is a very sad incident that disrupts our city. Innocent people are not safe in their home," he told the Vatican-based Fides news agency.

Bishop Shaw urged the faithful to "overcome the climate of fear and uncertainty, and to maintain an atmosphere of peace and solidarity with the victims."

On Saturday a mob attacked the Christian "Joseph Colony" in the Lahore district of Badami Bagh, burning dozens of homes. Police arrested about 150 people for crimes in the attack, the Associated Press reports.

The attack was prompted by the arrest of a Christian man named Savan Masih on charges he insulted Islam's Prophet Muhammad.

Local Christians told Fides news agency that the accusation is completely false. Masih's father said his son deeply respects the Prophet Muhammed.

The Pakistani bishops charged that the inaction of the police and the government administration contributed to the attack. The Pakistani bishops' conference's Justice and Peace Commission said officials "allowed the development of a tragedy in the heart of the city."

The commission said the provincial government ignored the situation of minorities and the "growing religious intolerance fomented by extremist groups."

The bishops' commission said the government did not react properly to the recommendations of a judicial investigation of 2009 riots in which six Christians were burned alive and 140 houses were set on fire after a false blasphemy allegation.

It called on the Punjab government to adopt "long-term measures to control abuse of the blasphemy law," abuse the commission said is "widespread" in Punjab.

Christians across the country rallied against the attack on March 10, showing their greatest strength in Lahore, Karachi, Islamabad and Rawalpindi.

Protesters held a prayer vigil and a peaceful sit-in in front of the Lahore headquarters of the Press Association.

Archbishop Joseph Coutts of Karachi, the Pakistan bishops' conference president, attended the vigil with Bishop Shaw and Akram Masih Gill, a Christian who is a Minister of State for Harmony.

Gill said Christians played a "key role" in the creation of Pakistan. He asked Punjab's provincial government and Muslim religious leaders to "come forward to ensure peace and harmony among religions," Fides reports. Elsewhere the protests became contentious. Demonstrators blocked a major highway in Lahore, prompting police to fire tear gas.

Some protesters threw rocks at the police. Some vehicles and fences were damaged while protesters also burned an electric generator. Six were arrested.

The Pakistan Supreme Court held hearings on the attack on the morning of March 11.

Paul Bhatti, Minister for Harmony called for "the immediate arrest of the culprits" and urged a transparent investigation.

He called for a "collective effort to promote harmony and stop the growing intolerance."

Bhatti's brother Shahbaz was assassinated in March 2011 in part because of his opposition to the blasphemy law.

The Saturday mob attack drew condemnation from many Muslim leaders and groups.

Muslim leaders of 30 Sunni Islamic schools in the Sunni Tehreek movement have also voiced their solidarity. Other Muslim leaders said the attack is "alien to the Islamic religion."

In Karachi, members of the Mutahida Quomi Movement, a political party, formed a human chain with Christians to protest the incident and to demand the resignation of the Punjab governor.

Read more: http://www.ewtnnews.com/catholic-news/World.php?id=7224#ixzz2NeLCNBG2

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