Police in Pakistan charged a Christian with blasphemy on Friday (June 30) after he posted Bible verses on Facebook that infuriated Muslims, causing dozens of Christian families in a village near Sargodha city to flee their homes.
Tensions flared in Chak 49 Shumaali village, Punjab Province, after 45-year-old Haroon Shahzad on Thursday (June 29) posted on his Facebook page 1 Corinthians 10:18-21, regarding food sacrificed to idols, as Muslims were beginning the four-day festival of Eid al-Adha (Feast of the Sacrifice), which involves slaughtering an animal and sharing the meat.
A Muslim villager took a screenshot of the post, sent it to local social media groups and accused Shahzad of disrespecting the Abrahamic tradition of animal sacrifice and likening Muslims to pagans. Eid al-Adha commemorates God providing a lamb for Abraham to sacrifice instead of his son. In the passage posted from 1 Corinthians, the Apostle Paul states that pagan sacrifices are offered to demons.
Shahzad made no comment in the post, inflammatory or otherwise, said Sargodha resident Tahir Naveed Chaudhry, a Christian and former lawmaker.
“The post began circulating in Muslim circles on Thursday, but the situation became tense after the Friday prayers when announcements were made from mosque loudspeakers asking people to gather for a protest,” Chaudhry told Morning Star News.
Chaudhry said that he and other local Christian leaders began monitoring tensions on Thursday evening (June 29) and were in contact with the district administration and police authorities. When they heard that mobs from other villages had begun gathering after the mosque announcements, they informed Sargodha District police, which sent a large contingent to protect the 250-300 Christian families in the village, he said.
“The police reached the village in time and prevented any attack on the Christians or damage to property,” Chaudhry said. “However, the police presence did not deter the mobs from raising inflammatory slogans. Fearing that the situation could get out of hand, a majority of the Christian families fled their homes, leaving everything behind.”
Chaudhry, an attorney and head of his own political party, said that Shahzad went into hiding on Thursday evening (June 29) along with his wife and six children.
“The police registered a case against Haroon on Friday under Sections 295-A and 298, under the pressure of the mobs backed by the extremist Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan [TLP],” he said. “The FIR [First Information Report] is unwarranted, because Haroon had only shared a biblical verse and had made no personal comment that could be deemed blasphemous or inflammatory.”
Section 295-A relates to “deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs” and is punishable with imprisonment of up to 10 years and fine, or both. Section 298 prescribes up to one year in prison and a fine, or both, for hurting religious sentiments…continue reading
The case of the Christian individual charged with blasphemy for a Bible post in Pakistan sheds light on the ongoing challenges faced by religious minorities in the country. The incident serves as a reminder of the delicate balance between freedom of expression and the protection of religious sentiments.
Source: Morning Star News