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Two Christian evangelists charged with blasphemy in Pakistan – reports

Two Christian evangelists have been charged with blasphemy in Pakistan, according to reports.

The charges reportedly related to a encounter in Model Town Park in Lahore last week between evangelists Haroon Ayub Masih and Salamat Mansha Masih and Muslim man, Haroon Ahmad, and several of his friends in which an argument broke out which ended with Ahmad accusing the two men of making derogatory remarks against Islam.

The two Christians have reportedly been charged with blasphemy under two sections of Pakistan’s Penal Code, one of which carries a mandatory death sentence. It has been reported that while Salamat Mansha Masih was arrested by police, Haroon Ayub Masih escaped and has gone into hiding.

US-based persecuted church and support organisation International Christian Concern is among those which has reported on the case.

William Stark, a regional manager with ICC, said, the organisation was concerned for the safety of the two men and the “safety of the broader community these men represent”.

“In many cases, the mere accusation of blasphemy against a Christian is enough to spark mob violence in Pakistan,” he said in a statement. “This violence is often not limited to those accused. There are many examples in which a blasphemy accusation has exploded into violence against an entire Christian community. We call for a complete and fair investigation into the accusation against Haroon and Salamat. Too often Pakistan’s blasphemy laws are misused to justify mob violence or settle personal vendettas. Too often these laws have been a tool in the hands of extremists seeking to stir up religiously motivated violence against minority communities.”

Nasir Saeed, director of the Centre for Legal Aid Assistance and Settlement (CLAAS) UK – another Christian organisation following the case, said it was the second involving blasphemy this year, citing the case of a Christian staff nurse and Gospel singer who had a blasphemy case registered against her last month.

He added in a statement that religious minorities in Pakistan “are increasingly the targets of bigotry, which is often instigated by extremist forces, Islamic political parties and their leadership”.




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