Hundreds of Christians were forced to flee their homes in Pakistan after a Facebook post triggered offended Muslims to threaten to torch the neighborhood.
Raja Waris, a pastor in the Charrar neighborhood of Lahore, shared a post he found on Facebook that Muslims considered blasphemous, according to the American Center for Law and Justice. He was arrested and taken into custody after violent mobs threatened arson to the Christian community.
“This incident is a symptom of a long history of violence that has taken place against Christians and other minorities in Pakistan. The United States Department of State has listed Pakistan as a country of particular concern for persecution of religious minorities,” the ACLJ said.
The ACLJ, which has offices working on behalf of religious freedom around the world, said the exact content of the post is unknown, as it was removed after the violent threats.
“Even after Pastor Waris apologized and removed the post, he and his family had to go into hiding to flee more violent threats against their lives. Hundreds of Muslims continued to demand Waris’ beheading. When the mobs grew even more violent and threatened arson, the Christians fled the neighborhood and sought shelter,” the ACLU said.
A short time later, Waris was taken into custody and police filed a blasphemy case against him.
“However, we have also heard that negotiations between the Muslim community leaders, the Christians leaders, and the relevant government officials are ongoing. That shows that there is hope that the government will do the right thing, and the government and both communities’ leaders might be able to resolve the matter and dismiss any charges against the pastor,” the ACLJ said.
The situation remains volatile, with some who fled having returned to their homes.
“Christians are frequently falsely accused of blasphemy against Islam and sentenced to 10 years for hurting religious feelings, life imprisonment for desecrating the Quran, or a mandatory death penalty for defiling the name of the Prophet Muhammad,” the organization said. “Anyone who is being tried under these laws is almost never granted bail. While no one has officially been executed under Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, violent rioting mobs often gather and threaten to kill the alleged blasphemer. Several of such mobs have destroyed and set on fire entire Christian neighborhoods and have killed many.”
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