Want to help families displaced by the Badami Bagh attack? Here’s how…

This family refuse a tent so they can squat in front of their home. Photo: Nadia Jamil

This family refuse a tent so they can squat in front of their home. Photo: Nadia Jamil

In the midst of the despair and anger caused by the insane, cold-blooded attack on the Christians of Joseph Colony (also known as Esa Nagri), in Badami Bagh Lahore, it is heartening to see Pakistanis come together not just to unequivocally condemn the attack, but also to help those who have lost everything. Please join this effort. Friends that I trust are working with the Cecil and Iris Chaudhry Foundation, run by Cecil and Michelle, whose father the late Sqdn Ldr Cecil Chaudhry I knew as a wonderful human being, and a dedicated peace activist and educationist (although he was more famous for being a war hero). Please see below for information on how to help, as well as photos and updates. Continue reading

“They looted everything, we have nothing left”

RT @Norbalm: Where are the blasphemy charges now?

@Norbalm: Where are the blasphemy charges now?

“Howl, howl, howl, howl! O, you are men of stones:
Had I your tongues and eyes, I’d use them so
That heaven’s vault should crack…”
King Lear

See this brief, heartbreaking video below documenting the damage done by the criminal mob at Joseph Colony, Badami Bagh, Lahore. All efforts must be made to rehabilitate them and provide them with justice. When is enough enough? Or have we still not reached the breaking point? Also see my earlier article on the ‘blasphemy’ laws and the dangers of ignoring malicious intent when accusing someone of this crime.


Joseph Colony Arson Attack from Saad Sarfraz Sheikh on Vimeo.

Planned attack on Christian properties in Lahore; protest demonstrations Sunday

Demonstration in Karachi against the attack on Christians' homes in Lahore. AP Photo/Fareed Khan

Demonstration in Karachi against the attack on Christians’ homes in Lahore. AP Photo/Fareed Khan

Another day, another bout of madness in Pakistan. On Saturday, a mob torched Christian houses in Joseph Colony in the Badami Bagh area of Lahore, after allegations of ‘blasphemy’ against one of its residents. This was clearly no spontaneous ‘riot’ but a well-planned and orchestrated move. Because of the warnings received ahead of time, the residents were evacuated so that there was no loss of life (though the alleged blasphemer’s 65-year old father was beaten up). Small mercies.

Locals say that the land mafia was behind this attack. No surprise. Malafide motives (property, debt, rivalry etc) have been behind all accusations of ‘blasphemy’ investigated so far. Continue reading

The dangers of ignoring ‘malicious intent’ while accusing of ‘injuring religious sentiments’

Shaheen Dhada, left, and Renu Srinivasan, who were arrested for their Facebook posts, leave a court in Mumbai on Nov 20, 2012. AP photo

Shaheen Dada (left) and Renu Srinivasan were arrested last Monday, seen here leaving a court in Mumbai on Nov 20, 2012. AP photo

Some thoughts on ‘blasphemy’ and the issue of ‘injuring religious sentiments’, in this somewhat belated blog post, which includes ‘Malicious Intent’, an article I wrote for The New Humanist on the blasphemy issue (abridged from the original article; scroll down for references that had to be deleted for reasons of space). Since then, in a move that was widely welcomed, the Chief Justice of the Islamabad High Court quashed the First Information Report (FIR) of the “blasphemy” case registered against the minor Christian girl Rimsha Masih. Here is the link to a downloadable PDF copy of the judgment, dated Nov 14, 2012 - IHC verdict on the Rimsha case.

Meanwhile, in India, as the death of the aged Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray sparked off fears of violence, police arrested a young woman who posted a facebook status objecting to the ‘bandh’ (strike) that shut Mumbai down, and a friend who ‘liked’ the status. Shaheen Dhada and Renu Srinivasan were charged under Section 295-A of the Indian Penal Code – “injuring religious sentiments”; Section 295-A, as I explain in my article below, is also the basis of Pakistan’s controversial blasphemy laws. Continue reading

‘We are sorry,” say Pakistanis; clean up for peace, fundraise for burnt church

This blog post is not about the violence and mayhem let loose in Pakistan to protest the anti-Islam film made by some fanatics. The destruction caused by the protestors in the name of love for the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) last Friday was televised for the world to see. This post is about what some people, mostly youth, are doing to counter such madness.

Horrified at the destruction and violence, some youngsters decided to actually DO something beyond sitting around and complaining about the protestors and their criminal activities: “The idea is simple, just get out on the streets and roads, use whatever resources you can to clean up the mess created by these riots. This is a national thing, and it would be great if people in every city of Pakistan join in!” The appeal got hundreds if not thousands in various cities working to clean up the debris, paint walls and sidewalks, and pick up shattered glass. Here’s the facebook page they created afterwards to take their work further, called Project Clean up for Peace: the original facebook event is at this link Project Clean Up For Peace - check it out for some heartwarming comments). And do take two minutes to watch this little video from Islamabad, put together by  Lolz Studios -  showing some #MuslimLove instead of #MuslimRage. Thanks Faran Rafi for the inspiration.

#RebuildMardanChurch

Another group has started a facebook page called Winds of Change to compile information on fundraising to re-build the Sarhadi Lutheran church in Mardan that the looters burnt down along with its adjoining school. (twitter hashtag #RebuildMardanChurch).

“Many will be ready to take the credit for the rebuilding of the church,” wrote the doctor and blogger Ilmana Fasih in a facebook message shared with several people working to organise funds to re-build the church. “The question is how many would be willing to tender an apology to the Christian community, for the desecration of the Holy Books , and for what the whole community went through needlessly in case of Rimsha Masih. Such traumas don’t heal easily.”

Her well-received comment led to several people collaborating to draft this public apology, Support Pakistani citizens targeted for their faith apologizing to Christian and other Pakistani citizens who have been targeted and hurt for their faith   – please read it, sign and share if you agree.

Bishop Peter Majeed who heads the Sarhadi Lutheran Church provides the following information for local donors to send contributions to:

Account name – Nothern Diocese Mardan
Account no: 01-100-3204-9
Bank code: ABL 0610
Allied Bank Mardan

Those who would like to contribute from outside Pakistan, please send donations to the following account, which is in the name of Jimmy Matthew of the Northern Diocese.

Account Name: Jimmy Matthew
Account No: 0041757001
Swift: DUIBPKKA
Bank Name: Dubai Islamic Bank Pakistan Limited
Branch Name: Peshawar Cantt, Pakistan

A note from the development consultant Tariq Banuri, who shared Bishop Peter Majeed’s appeal

This appeal by Bishop Peter Majeed is addressed to all Christians in the world. I would like to echo the appeal to all Pakistanis, whether they are Muslims, Christians, or Hindus. Some people have argued that the attackers are only a minuscule minority in the country. This may be so, but the damage they have caused to the victims is no less violent. No less is the damage they have done to the rest of us, their compatriots, by showing us to be a breed of beasts rather than humans. One’s commitment to religion and country (the idea of “Tabligh”) is best expressed through a demonstration of one’s character, generosity, and dignity, and most certainly not in the display of beastly behavior. The “minuscule minority” has had its say. Now it is time for the majority to come forward — to show our solidarity with the victims, to respond to the Bishop’s appeal, if possible to heal the wounds, but at least to redress the property damage by our contributions.”

Bishop Peter Majeed’s appeal for help:

I, Bishop Peter Majeed of Northern Diocese Mardan Church of Pakistan, am writing this to appeal for help in rebuilding the church, bishop house, diocesan center, priest’s houses, principal house, library and school that were damaged in the attack carried out by a mob two days ago. This was the third time in two years that the church and my house have been attacked. First two times the mob were not able to damage the above mentioned places, but this time the mob comprised thousands of people who were protesting against the blasphemous movie and the damage they managed to do was much more severe. The mob managed to get into the church compound, after which they first burnt down the church building, and then stole the cash and other expensive items. A car, three motor bikes and all belongings were stolen from the priest houses. We thank God that our families managed to escape safely.
The crowd also grabbed a 20 year old boy named Zeshean Chan, son of Rev. Chan Masih and tried to throw him in the burning church, but he was saved with the help of some people and police.

The Sarhadi Lutheran church was built by the Norwegian and Danish missionaries in 1937. The Bishop house, office, priest’s houses, library and school are all located in the same compound, which the mob burnt and now only the ashes are left behind. The fire severely damaged the buildings, which are in danger of collapsing any time. This property is under the administration of Bishop Peter Majeed, Northern Diocese Mardan Church of Pakistan. We are appealing to all Christians in the world to stand with us in prayers and help us to rebuild the house of God and the houses of His servants, who have been rendered homeless and are living with their friends and relatives.

Contact us at – info@northerndiocesemardan.org or petermajeed@gmail.com
Northern Diocese Mardan, Pakistan
GS. Jimmy Matthew. Bishop Peter Majeed

Postscript: As for the criminal looters, arsonists and vandals, their main agenda was clearly to create trouble and derail the democratic process, as elections loom ahead. They know they have no chance of coming into power through the polls, so their desperation is growing. Hence the Dirty Tricks Brigade is getting even more active. The Rangers stood by (draw your own conclusions as to where the military stands) and off-duty policemen were reported to be involved in the rioting (doesn’t the DTB always use them too?). The violence was well coordinated mostly by the so-called ‘jihadi’ outfits and the DTB, no doubt, aiming to provoke a gunfight near US diplomatic premises in Peshawar, Karachi and Islamabad – not Lahore, though (surprise?). It is these outfits who regularly target-kill those they deem ‘non-Muslim’. Jamaat-e-Islami, Imran Khan’s party and others joined it and failed to condemn or isolate the criminals operating in the name of religion – in fact they willingly provided cover. A lot of the cannon fodder came from various madrassas. For all its incompetence, the administration foiled the aim of sparking gunfights at US compounds. Their madness cost some 22 lives around the country. May those poor souls rest in peace and their families find strength to carry on.

Lest we forget…. other minors in Pakistan accused of ‘blasphemy’

1993 – May 11: Salamat Masih, a 14-year-old Christian boy, was named as the main accused in a case lodged by the imam of the mosque at Ratta Dhotran, district Gujranwala, Punjab, Pakistan. It was alleged that Salamat had written derogatory remarks about the Prophet Muhammad (SW) on the mosque walls and  thrown slips of paper with similar language written on them into the mosque. Salamat’s father Rehmat Masih and uncle Manzoor Masih were co-accused. Manzoor Masih and Salamat Masih were illiterate. A sessions court sentenced them to death but the high court later acquitted them. Manzoor Masih was shot dead during the hearings, and the High Court Judge, Arif Iqbal Bhatti, who acquitted them, was also later shot dead. Salamat Masih and Rehmat Masih had to flee the country.

For a list of more cases see Incidents of minors in Pakistan accused of ‘blasphemy’ at the Citizens for Democracy blog

Photos from Karachi protest in support of Rimsha Masih

People of all ages and from all faiths came out in Karachi in support of Rimsha Masih, the young girl accused of blasphemy. For more photos see the Christians in Pakistan facebook page. Photo Copyright © Sunny Gill Photography.

Support Rimsha Masih: Pls join demo in Lahore, Aug 25, 4 pm

Posted by :  LAHORE protest against blasphemy charges and detention of Rimsha Masih: Join us in solidarity on 25 August 2012; Time: 4 pm.  Venue: Youhanabad, Ferozepur Road, Lahore - from: Life for All Pakistan and Masihi Foundation Pakistan.

In my view, it doesn’t matter how old she is or whether she’s got Downs Syndrome or not. There must be a stop to charging & demanding death for anyone accused of ‘blasphemy’.

Demo in Karachi, Aug 25, 3.30 pm, in support of ‘blasphemy’ accused Rimsha Masih

 

Demonstration in Karachi in support of Rimsha Masih, the girl (aged between 11 and 16 years who is reported to have Downs Syndrome) who has been accused of blasphemy in a blatant misuse of religion as a political tool, at Press Club TOMORROW, August 25, at 3.30 pm. This peaceful protest has been organised by All Pakistan Christian League, Action Committee for Human Rights, Peace and Development Organization, The Saviour’s Trust, Minority Rights Forum and Mass International, supported by various human rights organisations. Do join with friends if you are in town. Cross-posted from the blog Citizens for Democracy, Pakistan.

NOTE: I’ve removed the visual originally used with this post after learning that the photo that was used is fake and misleading on several counts.

Signature campaign and public performance against violence in the name of religion

Signature campaign against violence in the name of religion


CFD volunteers receive an encouraging response as they engage with members of the public.

On April 14, 2012 Citizens for Democracy organized a signature campaign against killings and other violence in the name of religion, as well a public theatre performance. Read more at the CFD blog… Signature campaign and public performance against violence in the name of religion.

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