Hundreds of Pakistani Christian families had to flee their homes prior to Christmas after a mob of Muslims threatened to set fire to the neighborhood after a faith-based social media post was published by a local pastor.
International Christian Concern (ICC) reports the Christian families from Charar, a neighborhood in Lahore, fled for their lives after Pastor Raja Waris published a Facebook post on Dec. 22. The Muslims didn't approve of the message.
Saleem Khokhar, one of the displaced Christians, told the ICC, "The pastor apologized for the post and the issue was resolved the next day."
However, the pastor and his family went into hiding after receiving threats from local extremists. A mob of hundreds of Muslims continues to protest against the Charar Christians.
Local sources told the nonprofit that the mob has demanded the pastor to be beheaded for publishing the social media post. So far, Waris has not been charged with violating any of Pakistan's blasphemy laws.
"The situation turned dangerous when someone found out the Muslims were planning to set fire to the houses of Christians," Khokhar told ICC. "This forced the Christians to flee the neighborhood."
"This is supposed to be a time of joy and celebration," Khokhar added. "But we are out of our homes and begging our relatives and friends to protect and feed us. None of us are feeling good about this situation."
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ICC's Regional Manager William Stark, said, "We here at International Christian Concern are concerned by the situation in Charar. We call on the Pakistani authorities to protect the homes of Charar's Christians. No one should be forced to flee their home because of a social media post. Pakistan's blasphemy laws must not be misused to justify mob violence. Too often these laws have been a tool in the hands of extremists seeking to stir up religiously motivated violence against minority communities."
Police officers have been deployed by the local government in order to keep Christians and their neighborhoods safe. The ICC reports 5,000 police officers and officials were out in force to provide security to 623 churches and Christian settlements in Lahore alone.
Pakistan government officials also expressed their support for Christians by visiting several churches during the Christmas holiday. The commander of the Rawalpindi police station and several other government officials visited St. Paul's Church in Rawalpindi after being invited by the Rev. Samuel Titus, the church's pastor.
As CBN News has reported, in Pakistan, false accusations of blasphemy are common and often motivated by personal vendettas or religious hatred. Such accusations are highly inflammatory and have the potential to spark mob lynchings, vigilante murders, and mass protests. Currently, at least 24 Christians are imprisoned on blasphemy charges in Pakistan.
According to the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, blasphemy laws are astonishingly widespread throughout the world. Seventy-one countries spread out across many regions, maintain such statutes.