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Pakistani Christian sentenced to death

A 22-year-old Pakistani Christian man was sentenced to death for sharing a post on social media. According to the court, his post resulted in the violence in Jaranwala last year. Even though hundreds of arrests were made, it is not those who committed violence, vandalized, and set churches and houses ablaze that will be sentenced, but a young Christian man who shared a post on social media.

In August of last year, in Jaranwala, Faisalabad district, Punjab, Pakistan, a wave of anti-Christian violence swept the streets and led to attacks against Christians and the destruction of 26 churches and multiple homes. The spark that started the widespread violence was a social media post. A Christian man was accused of burning pages of the Quran and writing anti-Muslim letters online. A 22-year-old Pakistani Christian man, Ahsan Masih, shared one of the letters, considered blasphemous by a police officer, who downloaded it and filed a complaint against him.

Almost a year after the tragic attacks, the Anti-Terrorism Court in Sahiwal found Ahsan Masih guilty and sentenced him to death. The young man has to spend 22 years in prison and pay a fine of about $3,600 before his execution. The sentence sparked outrage in the Pakistani Christian community. The Centre for Legal Aid, Assistance and Settlement (CLAAS), a Pakistani non-governmental organization, stated:

“Now a grave injustice has been done. The verdict against Ehsan Shan symbolizes the virtual death of all Christians in Pakistan today. Only one culprit is identified for the violence and destruction that took place in Jaranwala and that is a Christian.”

Many think that Ahsan Masih is only a scapegoat and that the judges were under pressure and wanted to come up with a decision quickly to please the Muslim extremist crowd. In the case of the violence in Jaranwala, hundreds of arrests were made, but those who committed the vandalism and attacked innocent people were released on bail, and only a few will face trials. Father Khalid Rashid Asi, director of the Justice and Peace Commission of the Diocese of Faisalabad, during an interview with Asia News, stated:

At that time when Jaranwala incident took place, thousands of people, including Muslims and Christians, were sharing that letter with others, just passing the information on, and did not have any intention of committing blasphemy.”

He also added that the real criminals who were out in the streets committing violence should face the court.

Aksa Kanwal, a human rights activist, noted:

The government should review the blasphemy legislation because so many people are behind the bars on false accusations. The state should book those who frame others in such cases just for personal grudges and vendettas.”

She commented on the use of blasphemy law. In many cases, a simple accusation is enough to get people into jail or worse, fueling a violent response from the local extremist community that would end in violence and, in multiple cases, death and destruction.

Source: Asia News ; Agenzia Fides

Photo: Wikimedia

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