Blasphemy case filed following church attack – Eurasia Review
By Kamran Chaudhry
(UCA News) — Pakistani police have charged four people with blasphemy for ransacking a Catholic church in a village in Punjab province.
Two police officers were deployed for the night shift at St. Camille’s Church in Village 49/2L in Okara District where gunmen raided the building, tied up the Christian guard and threw pictures of the Holy Family, Eucharist, Bibles and Ark of the Covenant on the floor on the night of January 23.
The predominantly Muslim village is home to 120 Catholic families.
A complaint was filed on several counts, including article 295 of the Penal Code which criminalizes the destruction or desecration of any place of worship or emblem of faith. Those found guilty face a maximum prison sentence of two years.
In a first information report filed on January 24, parishioner Younas Masih said the culprits escaped after desecrating the items. “The culprits hurt our religious feelings by violating the sanctity of the Church. They tried to offend and ruin the peace in our region,” he said.
Father Khalil Maqsood, who took charge of the church last year, said residents objected to the electric bell installed last month.
“The newly constructed building is on the main road and several workers have complained about the sound of the bell. The station officer suggested filing an urgent report against anyone protesting the bell. The looters covered their faces with shawls and also took the imported ciborium and chalice,” he told UCA News.
According to Father Bonnie Mendes, former executive secretary of the National Commission of Catholic Bishops for Justice and Peace, local Catholics had done nothing antagonistic.
“The latest attack is very strange. Unfortunately, the wave of religious intolerance comes and goes in our country,” he told UCA News.
In May 2021, a mob of over 200 attacked Christian families in a nearby village in Okara district.
In August 2021, Christian workers were forced to remove a cross from the Church of the Nazarene after objections from a Muslim crowd in Tibba Sultanpur, a predominantly Muslim city in the Punjab province.
According to Lahorebased at the Center for Social Justice, 81% of cases reported under blasphemy laws in 2021 took place in the province of Punjab.