Christian Persecution in Pakistan
ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN (Worthy News)-- Christians in Pakistan remained fearful Thursday, June 16, after a court in Pakistan acquitted 70 Muslims who were suspected of killing Christians in one of the country's worst sectarian clashes in recent memory.
At least eight Christians burned to death in August 2009, in what became known as the "Gojra Massacre" named after the town where the killings took place, some 160 kilometers (100 miles) outside Punjab province's capital, Lahore.
Two others also died in separate attacks on Gojra's Christian colony by Muslim extremists, and churches and homes were reportedly set on fire.
On July 30 they also attacked Christians in the nearby Korian village, leaving many homes in ruins, witnesses said.
However a Pakistani anti-terrorism court acquitted the 70 suspects, citing an absence of Christian witnesses in the courtroom and a lack of evidence against the accused, trial observers said.
Earlier, other suspects were declared innocent during the investigation into the incident.
Some Christians were also imprisoned for attacking “the other group” and released after a few months, Christians said.
The attacks by an angry mob of about 800 people began after Muslims alleged some Christians had burnt pages of the Koran, deemed a holy book by Muslims, during a wedding.
Christians have denied wrong doing.
Media reported that activists of the banned Sipah-e-Sahaba and Sipah-e-Muhammad groups were involved in the violence.
Christian community leaders alleged the police released some of the accused because of political pressure.
Local Christians have also been scared to come forward and some fled the area, church officials said. "It is apparent that justice was denied. The Church was vigilant in pursuing the case but Christians were afraid to follow up," explained Catholic priest Yaqub Yousaf of the Sacred Heart Church in Gojra.
"A whole family shifted to Sri Lanka while a few left the city for good,” added Yousaf in published comments.
He also complained that reconstruction work, as promised by government, was left unfinished. "Eight houses in Korian village remain in ruins while a few houses in Gojra city are still incomplete," he added.
The violence comes amid a painful debate on controversial blasphemy legislation that critics say have been misused by extremists to persecute Christians in this mainly Muslim nation.
Earlier this year, Minority Affairs Minister Shahbaz Bhatti, the only Christian in the federal cabinet, was gunned down by suspected Taliban fighters in Islamabad after he opposed the controversial blasphemy law.
And in one of the latest reported incidents last week, at least 10 Christian families in a village in Pakistan’s Punjab Province fled their homes after a mob of area Muslims accused a Christian boy of blaspheming Islam.