Christian fleeing false blasphemy charge
In an interview with ICC Ilyas Rehmat, a Christian human rights activist, shared the details of the case. "Irfan Masih, a Christian, and [Adnan's accuser], Mehmood worked at a glass and aluminum shop together for the past year."
Mehmood has been described as a fundamental Muslim and reportedly has connections with the Islamic extremist organization Jamaat-ul-Dawat, which has been banned in Pakistan. According to reports, Mehmood kept a copy of the book I Asked the Bible Why Qurans were Burnt at work, which is full of unauthentic and biased religious points of view against Christianity. According to ICC's sources, both the book and the author are supposed to be banned in Pakistan.
"On the day of the incident, Adnan Masih, a Christian pastor trained at the United Pentecostal seminary, covered a shift for his brother, Irfan Masih, at the glass and aluminum shop," Rehmat said. At the shop, Adnan discovered the anti-Christian book and began reading it. Due to its anti-Christian perspective and Adnan's background as an Evangelist, Adnan wrote comments in the book arguing against the anti-Christian viewpoints using Bible verses to support his arguments.
These comments enraged Mehmood, so he took the book with the written comments into a local police station in Lahore and filed a case against Adnan, accusing him of writing blasphemous remarks against Muhammed and the Quran on different pages of the book. Mehmood also contacted members of Jamaat-ul-Dawat and reported the incident.
Upon discovering the accusations against him, Adnan fled Lahore and went into hiding. Those closest to Adnan say that he fears that he will be murdered by Jamaat-ul-Dawat or executed the Pakistani government if he is discovered.
When police were unable to arrest Adnan, they arrested three other Christian men in connection with the incident including Mushtaq Masih, the Christian owner of the glass and aluminum shop where the "blasphemy" occurred; Irfan Masih, Adnan's brother; and Kamram Masih, another relative of Adnan. The police are now using these arrests to pressure Adnan, who remains in hiding, to turn himself in as soon as possible.
Local Muslim community's violent reaction
When news of this incident spread, the local Muslim community reacted with violence. "Hundreds of Muslims carrying weapons and sticks were provoked and led by clerics to attack Christian houses [near where the incident occurred] on October 11, after Friday prayers," a local Christian human rights activist shared with ICC.
"They stoned the houses, broke the doors and windows and shouted slogans against the Christian community and faith. [Fortunately,] the mob was controlled by the police, otherwise we would have seen another 'Joseph Colony incident' in Lahore. Dozens of Christian men and women were reported injured during this attack," the local activist added. The attackers reportedly demanded that Adnan be hanged publically as they rampaged through the Christian neighbourhood.
"All the Christian families have fled from the area to unknown safe places. We are worried for our lives, property, and belongings," the local activist said. "We want to go back to our homes, safely, as soon as possible."
Reaction of the families of the Christians arrested
In an interview with ICC, Hahira Mushtaq, wife of Mushtaq Masih, described her desperation now that her husband has been arrested and imprisoned in connection with this incident. "We have not slept properly for a single night since [the arrest], due to fear of being attacked." Holding her youngest daughter, Tahira said, "I have no more excuses or answers for Sitaish to calm her and keep her from waiting for her father to come home."
"I beg Jesus to set him free as soon as possible," she prayed as she wept for her husband in prison.
Adnan remains in hiding and out of the custody of both the police and the Jamaat-ul-Dawat extremist group. The three Christian men who have been arrested in Adnan's place remain in prison, and tensions in Lahore remain high. Several Christian organizations have attempted to help bring about a peaceful resolution to this most recent blasphemy accusation against a Christian, but many fear this incident could be the prelude to another indecent of communal violence against the Christian community of Pakistan.
ICC is a Washington-DC based human rights organisation that exists to help persecuted Christians worldwide. ICC provides Awareness, Advocacy, and Assistance to the worldwide persecuted Church. For more information visit www.persecution.org