Wednesday, September 2, 2009

In the Name of Blasphemy, Pakistani Christians Under Frequent Attack - 11

Muslim Extremist Attacks on Christian Villages,

Churches, Schools, Hospitals
and Church Personnel (contd.)

Anglican Priest Kidnapped, Badly Injured
and Left for Dead in Peshawar

2009 (January 9): Rev. Tanzeel Zafar (28), an Anglican priest of the Church of Pakistan, was kidnapped on Friday (January 9) on his way home from the diocesan centre in Peshawar and was severely beaten. Then on Sunday evening (January 11) his traumatized body was left for dead at the gate of St. John's Cathedral in Peshawar of the North-West Frontier Province. The identity of the assailants are not known.

A statement from the Diocese of Peshawar, expressing concern over increased kidnapping in the area, said: "The police services have been marvelous in working out this case. Kidnapping in the area goes unabated. It really affects the entire community, especially when religious leaders are abducted."

In 2008, Taliban militants from the Lashar-e-Islam group had kidnapped 16 Christians at gun point in Peshawar and moved them to some unknown place nearby. However, the next day all these Christians were released.

Nursing School Prayer Rooms
Closed in Lahore

2009 (February): When the Muslim administrator ordered the closure of the Christian nurses' prayer room in the nursing school of the Children's Hospital in Lahore, the Christian hostel warden of the same school locked the Muslim nurses' prayer room in consultation with the administration. Mrs. Parsis Zareen Gul, the Christian warden of the nurses' hostel and a senior lecturer at the nursing school, is under heavy pressure to unlock the Muslim prayer room.

The administrator closed down the Christian prayer room on the pretext that the provision of non-Islamic prayer room in a public (government) building was unsconstitutional in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.

For the last six months, Mrs. Zareen Gul (also called Gulzareen) got involved in a conflict with a Muslim senior trainee doctor, Dr. Naila, who has been living in the hall for the last two years. About eight months ago, Dr. Naila -- who is believed to have links with some Muslim fundamentalist organizations -- demanded a prayer room for 400 Muslim lady doctors, nurses and students of the hospital as well as of the nursing school hall. With the consent of the hall administration, Mrs. Zareen Gul provided a large carpeted and furnished room for daily prayers and special religious gatherings.

Eighty Christian girls of the school subsequently requested for their own prayer room. With the consent of the same administration, Mrs. Zareen Gul provided a smaller room for these girls and used her personal funds for furnishing the room and provided Bibles and other reading materials.

Dr. Naila reportedly resented the Christian girls having their own prayer room. She became very aggressive and antagonistic towards Mrs. Zareen Gul. She then wrote letters to the administration complaining that Mrs. Zareen Gul was granting special favours to the Christian girls and she was using their prayer room for spreading Christianity in and around the hall and trying to convert Muslim girls to Christianity. In a sense, she was westernizing the hall's Islamic character.

In addition, Dr. Naila and fundamentalist Muslim students talked aggressively about having a Christian prayer room in their midst. The hospital administration responded by ordering Mrs. Zareen Gul to close down the Christian prayer room. Mrs. Zareen Gul argued that if Christian prayer room is to be closed, the Muslim one also should be closed as well. The administration finally decided to close both the prayer rooms.

Dr. Naila then misled local newspapers by telling them that Mrs. Zareen Gul closed down the Muslim prayer room, barring Muslim students, doctors and nurses from their prayers. She began her campaign of getting Mrs. Zareen Gul along with two assistant wardens dismissed. There is an increasing demand for having Muslim wardens to preserve the Islamic character of the halls. Dr. Naila also asked that Christian nurses and students convert to Islam.

An Islamic organization is threatening Mrs. Zareen Gul.

The Presbyterian Church at Songo
in Gujranwala District Attacked

2009 (March 2): A group of Muslims indiscriminately fired on worshippers inside a Presbyterian church at Songo, Gujranwala District, and left a woman dead and 11 others injured.

This attack occurred one week after two Muslims robbed Imran Masih (20), a Christian of the area, on February 25 at gunpoint. They took away 3,000 rupees (US$ 38), a mobile phone and a wrist watch.

After Imran reported the robbing to the police, local Muslim leaders brokered a reconciliation between Imran and the accused. This patch-up did not last long. Several armed Muslims forcibly entered some Christian homes on March 2, and harassed and threatened the inmates.

Another Muslim group, on the same day, entered the Presbyterian church armed with iron rods, clubs and guns. They opened fire on the Christians, smashed windows of the church, desecrated the Bibles and removed the cross from the church roof. They then left the church shouting that Christians would face dire consequences if they did not leave the town.

Police later arrested Shamim Ahmed, a member of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, the radical Islamic Muslim group, responsible for attacks on Christians and minority Shia Muslims, including October 2001 deadly attack on a Church of Pakistan service in Bahawalpur.

Muslim Militants Attack Christians
of Taseer (Taiser) Town, Karachi

2009 (April 21): Eight Christians were wounded -- among them Imran Masih (11) and Qadoos Masih most seriously -- when more than 100 masked Taliban militants attacked the Christian neighbourhood of Taseer (Taiser) Town in Karachi with firearms, beat the residents and set fire on three churches and several shops and houses. Imran later died in the hospital.

Taseer Town has a Muslim majority populations with about 750 Christian families -- of whom, 300 are Catholic families under the Catholic Archdiocese of Karachi.

Father D'Souza, parish priest at St. Jude's Church, visited the affected place. He saw graffitti on the wals of teh area's two churches, announcing: Taliban zindabad (Live long, Taliban), Islam zindabad (Live long, Islam), Christians, Islam qabool karo (Christians, convert to Islam).

A few days before this attack, the Talibans wrote with white chalks threats on walls of local churches and Christian homes demanding their conversion to Islam. Seeing these threats, Christians organized a demonstration asking government authorities for protection, but the police did not respond to their call.

During the attack on April 21, the Talibans dragged Christians out of their homes at gunpoint and shouted: "You infidels have to convert to Islam or die. Why did you erase our warning that we had written on your church and home doors? How dare you stage a demonstration against the Taliban?" They then shot at some Christians, beat others and torched churches and homes.

Dr. Nazir Bhatti, President of the Pakistan Christian Congress (PCC), said: "An attack bny the Taliban had been feared for months but no preventative action was taken" He warned that the Taliban was planning to expand the Islamic Shariah law in Karachi.

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