Mandi Bahauddin: Christians face the chill wind as extremists threaten them to “convert or leave”

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Christian residents of a village in Punjab continue to face the brunt of religious fanaticism as local extremists heap threats on them. National Director of Care Council for Human Rights- Saleem Iqbal reports that the local Christians of Chak 44 in District Mandi Bahauddin, are in a tight situation. They have been presented with few conditions in order to be allowed to live in the village.

Islamic extremism in Pakistan

The Christian residents of Chak 44 have been presented with options either to convert to Islam or leave the village by the religious extremists of the area. Local Christians landed in trouble, when recently, a Christian resident Imran Masih was accused of committing blasphemy and the local Muslims threatened to torch houses of all the Christians in the village. However, the Muslims are also demanding that Imran Masih be handed over to them, so that he could be punished.

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After these options were presented to the Christian villagers, the local Muslims have banned selling of everyday goods to local Christians. “We went to offer apologies to the Muslim villagers, but they put forth conditions for peace. They are demanding that the blasphemy accused Imran Masih should be handed over to them so they can burn him alive in front of the local church,” the local Christians told Saleem Iqbal.

“If you want us to forgive you; then all Christian villagers should either convert to Islam or leave the village,” the Muslim villagers warned their fellow Christians. The local Christians disclosed that they make both ends meet by working at the fields and houses of the local Muslims. “They have boycotted us, and left us in a desperate situation.” The Christians complained that they are not allowed to buy anything from the shops of the village. This situation has led them starve.

Moreover, local Christians have forced their young daughters and sons to flee anticipating a possible attack. They said that the local extremists had proclaimed to attack Christians on May 6, which was warded off because a police contingent was deployed at the village. However, the police personnel have left the village and the local Christians are anticipating a possible attack which has left them in deep fear and anguish.

They have implored that until the local Christians and Muslims get their issue settled, police should be deployed permanently, in order to ensure security of the Christians. They said that the blasphemy accusations on Imran Masih are baseless. “Imran Masih is not guilty, but if he is, all the Christian residents of Chakk 44 should not be punished,” they demanded.

They said that it has been about fifteen days since the dispute arose, and the local Christians are living in fear. They said that there are about 3000 to 4000 houses of Muslims but only 35 to 45 houses of Christians. They urged the authorities to arrange for their security along with provision of their everyday necessities, which have been cut off. They further disclosed that few Christians have in fact converted to Islam out of fear of the local Muslims.

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