Who is responsible for recent attack on the Christian community in Pakistan?
The News, August 08, 2009
What happened in Gojra was not the work of a foreign-funded militant group but the result of our own propagation of religious chauvinism, intolerance and glorification of militancy in the past three decades as part of state policy and school curriculum.
The younger brother of one of our family’s caretakers lives in Gojra and he told us a chilling tale of the lynching of Hameed Masih and three members of his family by a mob. Most of us who have been following the tragedy know that the trouble began at a Christian wedding in the nearby village of Korian on the evening of July 29. It later turned out that some children had cut out pages of an Islamiat textbook and used them as confetti for the wedding. However, the community immediately told the Muslims of nearby homes that the Holy Quran was not desecrated and that the children were all illiterate and did not know what book they were tearing the pages from.
Javed said that despite this the situation began to get out of control after local pesh imams began saying at mosques that local Christians had desecrated the Holy Quran. He said that the announcements continued the next day as well and this really served to inflame the local Muslim population. Javed said that he and his friends soon realised that the matter could get very serious and contacted the local nazim and MPA and MNA and were told that the police were being sent for their protection. He said that in response they said that the police were not sufficient and that either the rangers or the regular army needed to be deployed – and that too immediately, if the lives of the Christians were to be saved.
He said that the first attack on Gojra’s Christian Colony came from the youth of nearby Awan Town. By then the Christians had hastily left their homes – and Javed could see from a distance the boys descending on his and his friends’ homes, kicking the doors and ransacking everything. He said he saw a dozen or so men chase a young Christian boy throwing stones at him as he ran. He did say though that many of the Christian families managed to find refuge with Muslims families in Gojra, while some fled to Faisalabad, Jhang and nearby Toba Tek Singh.
The most horrifying incident was the lynching of Hameed Masih, a 50-year-old well-known painter of Gojra. Hameed had come home from his work and was caught by the mob which began hitting him. Javed said that the police tried to save Hameed by firing in the air but the mob was too large and violent.
In addition to Hameed, two women and a child of his family were also killed by the mob. As the policemen left the colony, Javed saw around 30 men dressed in black shalwar kameez arriving at the scene. He said they were members of the Sipah-e-Sahaba and came from nearby Jhang. These men, he said, had some kind of chemical with them. They sprayed it on the empty homes of the Christians and set them on fire. They also threw the chemical on the bodies of Hameed and his family members and burned them.
Javed said that the Punjab chief minister has promised between three and five lakhs for each family which lost its home but this amount is too little compared to what the Christians of Gojra really lost.
Instead of blaming outsiders for this violence, as some politicians and media commentators seem to have done, what is needed is to look inward and see the curse of intolerance and bigotry that is eating our social and moral fabric. The time is now for the government to review and reform Section 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code.
The writer is a freelance contributor. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org