ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN (BosNewsLife) -- More anti-Christian violence was expected in Pakistan Thursday, February 16, as deadly protests against published cartoons of Prophet Mohammad spread across the country.
At least five people have been killed in protests this week, and on Thursday, February 16, tens of thousands of demonstrators shouting "God is Great!" marched through the southern Pakistan city Karachi, burning effigies of the Danish prime minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen, police and witnesses said.
Protestors also damaged the St. Michael’s Convent School Cantt, St Elizabath Girls’ College and a Mission Hospital, run by the Church of Pakistan in Peshawar, said the Center for Legal Aid Assistance and Settlement (CLAAS), a UK-based religious advocacy and aid group, in a statement to BosNewsLife.
The Christian Girls School run by the United Presbyterian Church in the town of Kasur, 40 kilometers (25 miles) from Lahore was also attacked, although the extent of the damage was not yet known, CLAAS told BosNewsLife.
COLLEGE STUDENTS ATTACKED
CLAAS, which has investigators in Pakistan, said these latest attacks began Monday, February 13, when a procession comprising of college students and Islamic organizations "attacked the century old Edward Colleges run by Christian missionaries in Peshawar," the capital of Pakistan's North-West Frontier Province. The crowd reportedly smashed windows of the administration block, hall, library, and science block.
Earlier this month on February 3, in Kawanwali, Sialkot, a Muslim mob smashed church windows, "desecrated the Bible and also beat several Christian women including Salima Bibi, 50, and Veero Bibi, 70, whose both legs were fractured and her back severely damaged," CLAAS added. Police allegedly refused to investigate the violence.
Police also apparently declined to register the robbery of two investigators on the scene who lost their mobile phone, a coat and writing materials along with some cash. Officials could not be reached immediately for comment.
CHRISTIAN CHURCHES DISSAPPOINTED
Reports of attacks against churches and other Christian properties came as a disappointment for those already busy rebuilding the Catholic Church in the area of Sangla Hill in Punjab province where thousands of angry Muslims ransacked Christian sites November 13 last year, after Pakistani Christian Yousaf Masih allegedly desecrated the Koran.
Although he denied wrongdoing and his main accusers later declared him innocent, prosecutors and police have so far refused to drop the blasphemy charges. They also introduced new accusations under controversial anti terrorism legislation, including intent to destroy a house, CLAAS said.
If convicted on the blasphemy charge he could face the death penalty, or at least 17 years in prison on the terrorism related accusations, he learned on February 4 from the the Anti Terrorist Court in Lahore, the group explained.
CATTLE TRADERS THREATENED
In addition his family members, who are cattle traders, have reportedly been told by Muslims militants that they will be killed if they enter a local market to buy or sell products. It comes amid fears that it will become more difficult to give aid to Christians in areas hit by the recent massive earthquake.
"Ten days before Christmas I sat by a fire outside a tent and trying to get warm, the rubble which lay all around was a testament to the awesome power of the earthquake which had rocked Pakistan-administered Kashmir two months before," CLAAS representative Nasir Saeed told BosNewsLife.
"Alongside me were Mukhtarian Bibi, her six sons and two daughters - some of the few Christians in Kashmir. Their faith had not prevented the destruction of their home and belongings, but had given them courage to face the aftermath. Mukhtarian told me how grateful they were for the tent, blankets and other essential items," which he said by CLAAS via a local Christian leader.
Christians comprise less than 3 percent of the country's over 162-million strong, mainly Muslim, population, the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) said. (With reports from Pakistan and BosNewsLife Research).
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