Leaders exasperated over blackmailing of Christians held in lynching case

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Several leaders of Christian community have raised their concerns over the news that the public prosecutor had offered Christian prisoners bail on the condition of conversion to Islam. Earlier he news circulated that the Deputy District Public Prosecutor Syed Anees Shah had admitted that “if they embrace Islam, he can guarantee them their acquittal in this case.”

Attacks on Churches in Pakistan

While remarking in this regard, Pakistani rights activist Sajid Christopher stated that this was a “cowardly act. This offer is a severe violation of freedom of religion and strict action should be taken against him.” Another prominent Christian leader Tahir Naveed Chaudhry Chairman of Pakistan Minorities Alliance (PMA) told ICC: “The offer made by the prosecutor shows the prevailing mindset of religious extremism of the authorities. This offer will create problems for the trial court and day-to-day life of prisoners in the jail.”

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He went on to express serious concerns about the issue stating: “It is a very alarming situation for the Christians in Pakistan. We Christians are already facing challenges and hurdles to enjoy freedom of religion, and this recent trend of converting victims to Islam will damage the Christian community more.”

Acknowledged Pakistani Christian educationist Professor Anjum James Paul remarked that the offer posed by the prosecutor depicts the religious discrimination within the government setup. “The state actors are the hurdles in promoting religious diversity. They do not want Christians to enjoy their lives.”

“If this situation continues, I don’t see Christians living in this country in next couples of decades,” he expressed fear. “Disrespecting their religion is a heinous crime and, therefore, it should be dealt with seriously.”

Father Inayat Bernard, Rector of Saint Mary’s Seminary in Lahore plainly said that this was an ostensible tactic to “humiliate Christians.” He criticized the act by saying: “By forcing the Christian prisoners to convert to Islam, the public prosecutor himself has insulted Islam as well as given a name to Pakistan.”

In line with Joseph Francis, a rights activist: “Taking advantage of their presence at ATC-1 Lahore, Deputy District Public Prosecutor Syed Anees Shah gathered the accused outside the courtroom and asked them to embrace Islam.” Joseph who has been providing legal aid to the accused further stated: “He asked them if they embrace Islam, he can guarantee them their acquittal in this case.”

The DDPP Syed Anees Shah was removed on Thursday March 30, on the complaint of the accused. These Christians are facing the charges of lynching two Muslim men, in the wake of two suicide blasts at two separate churches in Lahore’s Youhanabad neighborhood.

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