Thursday, August 27, 2009

Punjab Police Retaliate against Bishop and his Flock

Police issue warrant for Bishop of Faisalabad Rt. Rev. John Samuel and 128 other Christians
By Taskeen Khan in London, England

Punjabi police have issued warrants for the arrest of the Bishop of Faisalabad and 128 other Christians, charging them with ‘’conspiracy’’ in the July 31 assault by Islamic militants on Gojra.

The First Information Reports or FIRs were filed this week by the Punjab police against the Rt. Rev. John Samuel, the Church of Pakistan’s Bishop of Faisalabad and 28 other Christians, in retaliation for complaints of police incompetence in the wake of the attacks on Christians in the town of Gojra that left ten dead and destroyed three Churches and over 100 homes.

FIRs have also been registered against 100 unnamed Pakistani Christians charging them as ‘’co-conspirators’’ in the attacks. Local human rights activists have denounced the police action telling AsiaNews, “It is a revenge move by agents and district administration against the Christian victims of the accidents in Gojra.”

The three day anti-Christian pogrom began on July 30 in the village of Koriyan following a Church wedding. Following local customs, confetti was tossed over the bride and groom as they left the Church---however, local Islamists took offence saying the shredded paper had come from pages of the Koran. Rocks were thrown and a fight ensued leading to the burning of several Christian homes.

The following day members of the banned extremist Muslim organization, Sipah-e-Sahaba, gathered near the railway station in Gojra and marched towards the Christian quarter of the town, and began throwing petrol bombs and shooting at the fleeing Christians. Ten Christians were killed either by the gunfire or were burned to death by the mob in their homes.

In the days preceding the violence, the Punjabi police were warned of an impending action by the Sipah-e-Sahaba---who through a radical splinter group, the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, are linked to the Taliban and al-Qaeda. During the attacks the police are alleged to have stood aside as the banned terrorist group destroyed the Christian quarter of the town.

“All the world knows about this incident very well, what the Islamic terrorists have done with the Christian community in my diocese and even in my city,” Bishop Samuel told The Church of England Newspaper in an email on Aug 26.

“Instead of arresting those responsible for this incident, the police have registered the F.I.R. against 29 nominated and 100 un-nominated people. My name and the name of my both sons are also included in those 29 names,” he said.

“We have again become the victims,” the Bishop’s said, stating he had sent his family away from Gojra but would remain in the town and was ready to be “prosecuted for the glory and for the work of Jesus Christ.”

“I daily receive threats through phone calls from unknown numbers,” he said, and reported this to the police. However, the police are “not paying attention to us and they are just favouring the persons who are responsible” for the attacks.

Bishop Samuel has urged Christians around the world to “please Pray for us and also do something for my family because we are in great trouble.”

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