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Pakistani Christians Await Justice after 3 Years of Joseph Colony Attack

Pakistani Christian women wail after visiting their homes which were damaged by an angry Muslim mob in Lahore, Pakistan, Sunday, March 10, 2013. Hundreds of Christians clashed with police in eastern and southern Pakistan on Sunday, a day after a Muslim mob burned dozens of homes owned by members of the minority religious group in retaliation for alleged insults against Islam’s Prophet Muhammad. (AP Photo/K.M. Chaudary)

Even after three years of the Joseph Colony incident, Pakistani Christians await justice.

On March 9, 2013, the Christian neighbourhood, Joseph Colony in Lahore, Pakistan was overcome by a large Muslim mob.

The colony was attacked and vandalized after a local Christian man; Sawan Masih had been erroneously accused of blasphemy.

The infuriated mob forced some 170 Christian families to flee the area. It was reported that the mob not only attacked the houses but also looted them.

Disturbing scenes of burning houses, streets strewn with debris and blackened furniture were seen as the mob attacked.

“They burnt down our houses, they burnt our Bibles. You should have seen the way we had to run. Women and children, running, some children weren’t even wearing shoes.”

Another resident said in tears while she described the fire burning down of the community, “I saw it with my own eyes. They [the mob] were laughing as they destroyed everything.”

Even after 3 years, the police have failed to identify or take any action against the attackers even though many of them could be clearly seen in photographs.

On the other hand, the police were quick to arrest Sawan Masih, who allegedly committed blasphemy and who is now at a death row in Pakistani prison.

Police had initially said they would investigate whether or not businessmen in the area may have instigated the violence with the aim of seizing the land, or to exploit the blasphemy allegations for political gain but no action was hereby taken.

Pakistan has extremely strict laws against defaming Islam, including the death penalty for insulting Prophet Mohammed (PBUH), and rights campaigners say they are often used to settle personal disputes in a country where 97 per cent of the population is Muslim.

A recent report from a US government advisory panel said Pakistan used blasphemy laws more than any other country in the world; listing 14 people on death row and 19 others serving life sentences for insulting Islam.

After removal of de facto moratorium on civilian hangings, Pakistani Christians fear that those accused of blasphemy serving their sentences in jails would have to suffer.

The weak law and order situation has made it very easy for Islamic extremists to take matter in their hands and lynch people on accusations of blasphemy. Previously, a Christian couple Shama and Shahzad were burnt alive in a brick kiln after they were falsely accused of blasphemy.

In a similar manner, two Muslim men were killed and their bodies burnt by Christians in Youhunabad locality of Lahore after twin bomb blasts at churches in Lahore.