02 August 2011

Persecution Watch: Pakistan

Aid to the Church in Need reports that influential Muslim leaders apologize for atrocities in Pakistan.  The text of the article follows, with my emphases and comments:
Two influential Muslim leaders [where are the other influential Muslim leaders?] have publicly apologized to people who lost loved ones, homes and businesses in one of Pakistan’s worst outbreaks of anti-Christian violence [why did they not condemn the violence?].

Marking the second anniversary of the violence in the Punjab’s Gojra city where eight people died, two ‘Pirs’ (holy men) addressed the crowds, asking for pardon on behalf of the extremist mobs who carried out the atrocity.

Pir Israr Bihar Shah, head of a Muslim seminary (madrassa), in the Gojra area, and Pir Hafiz Abbul Haui, who runs a nearby mosque, both explicitly apologized on behalf of the fanatics responsible, saying their actions went against the “spirit of Islam" [so...where is their condemnation of the violence?]

Gojra’s Christian quarter came under fire on August 1st, 2009, when a 1,000-strong mob rampaged through the streets [that's no small number of "radical extremists"], setting fire to more than 150 homes and businesses.

They were responding to an allegation of blasphemy against the Qur’an, apparently committed by children in the neighboring village of Korian who were accused of creating confetti out of paper on which were written verses from the Muslim holy book.

Under Pakistan’s notorious Blasphemy Laws, such a crime is punishable by life imprisonment.

At the height of the violence that followed, a Christian family – the Hamids – were trapped in their home after it was set ablaze. Seven members of the family died including two children, their mother and grandfather.

At today’s anniversary events, hundreds of Christians took part in a memorial Mass at Gojra presided over by Bishop Joseph Coutts of Faisalabad.

Reporting on the seminar that followed the Mass, Father Aftab James Paul, Director of Faisalabad’s diocesan Commission for Inter-faith Dialogue and Ecumenism, described the pirs’ apology as “hugely significant.”

In an interview with the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), Fr. Aftab said, “Even though they weren’t in any way involved in what happened that day, the pirs gave a full apology for what happened [then how can they apologize "on behalf of the mob"?].”

“They said that Islam as a religion does not condone killing. They went on to say that those responsible did not understand the spirit of Islam and they condemned their actions [if they did condemn their actions, why is this not mentioned at the beginning of the article?  And why is such a quote not given?].”

He added, “The two pirs are influential and well known and what they had to say was hugely significant, even if what they said was not an official statement and came at the very end of the seminar.”

Fr. Aftab said that people listening to the pirs’ comments “gave a very good response” to the scholars’ remarks and “were very happy.”

At last year’s first anniversary Mass and seminar, police chiefs apologized in response to allegations of inaction in connection with the Gora violence.

As a Catholic charity for persecuted and other suffering Christians, Aid to the Church in Need provided support for victims of the Gojra violence and helped with buildings damaged in the violence.

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