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World News

Christians flee village in Pakistan over blasphemy claims as mosques call for protests

by Sophie Drew

A Christian village in Pakistan is under threat following allegations of blasphemy, with many believers forced to flee their homes for fear of attack.

Last week, derogatory posters of Mohammed and his wife Aisha were attached to a mosque in Maryam Town, in the Sargodha district.

They celebrated the burning of the Qur’an in Sweden – an incident that has drawn international condemnation, particularly from Muslim-majority nations.

Thousands of Christians have been displaced after mosques used loudspeakers to call for protests in the town.

It’s the third allegation of blasphemy in recent weeks.

Although the posters may have been genuine, international freedom of speech experts suggest this could be an attempt to harbour resentment against Christians, following similar tactics in the past.

Historically, incidents of blasphemy have led to mob violence, with Christians attacked and murdered.

Morning Star News reports 2,120 people were accused of blasphemy in Pakistan between 1987 and 2022. A disproportionate number of those are Christians.

According to the Lahore-based Centre for Social Justice, 75 per cent of the blasphemy accusations were made in Punjab, which is home to a number of Christian colonies.

Speaking to Premier Christian News, Release International’s Andrew Boyd said: “There are people who are on death row for [blasphemy], and later acquitted, but on death row for years with death threats and death attempts made against them.

“So if it's not the courts that will kill you - and actually, nobody has been sentenced to death, that sentence hasn't been carried out in Pakistan - but the vigilantes will do it.

“It actually destroys your entire family. People have to go into hiding. They have to find other places to live.

“…you can run but you can't hide. That's the message that's been given out there.

“One of the reasons I think, why Christians are disproportionately targeted for this because they are there. There are many others who are accused of blasphemy but a higher proportion of Christians than others, given the small size of the Christian population.

“I think that Christians are, in effect, to an extremist, a walking, breathing, blasphemy.”

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