By Dan Wooding
Founder of ASSIST Ministries
LAHORE, PAKISTAN (ANS) -- A 35-year-old Pakistani Christian street sweeper, Sawan Masih, who has been accused of blasphemy by a close friend, is now awaiting the next move in his case as many local Christians are now are trying to survive in make-shift tents.
The Christian demonstrators denounced the burning of about 200 Christian homes and two churches by a frenzied Muslim mob of about 3,000, amidst claims spurred by allegations that a Christian man made remarks against the Muslim prophet Mohammed.
Some of the hundreds of protesters threw stones at police, saying the government failed to adequately protect Christians, Lahore senior police official Rai Tahir.
"Tahir said video footage of the fires helped lead to the arrests of more than 150 attackers. He said charges of terrorism have been filed against the suspects," said a CNN report.
An angry mob gathered after burning Christian houses in Lahore, Pakistan
The shocking violence that tore through Lahore's Badami Bagh community on Saturday, March 9, 2013, followed the arrest of Sawan Masih, a father of three who was living with his family in this poverty-stricken Christian area of Lahore, who is now accused of blasphemy.
The complainant Imran Shahid is said to have been Sawan's close friend during the past eight years. On the basis of his complaint, a First Information Report (FIR) was lodged against Sawan at the Badami Bagh Police Station.
"Initially the police held his father, Chaman Masih, and beat him severely, but he was then released after his constant denial of the accusations. Following these events, Sawan was finally handed over to the police on Friday, March 8th - a day prior to the attack," said a source.
LEAD (Legal Evangelical Association Development) Chief Advocate Sardar Mushtaq Gill said, "Christians are feeling insecure in Pakistan and remain always under threats of a religious mindset, especially due to the misuse of blasphemy laws against them."
A Pakistani demonstrator torches Christian's belongings in Lahore during a protest over a blasphemy row
Mr. Gill said that the Punjab and Federal governments have announced a fund for compensation and rehabilitation for those who lost their homes, and are now living in terrible conditions in tents in the area.
"There are many who blame Punjab and some say the people behind this incident are 'Land Mafia.' Others say that this violence was a failure of police and the establishment," said Mr. Gill.
"According to a review of the first incident report (FIR) No 112/13, there is no mention or valid allegation of blasphemy or of the agitation of Muslims," Mr. Will went on to say. "The FIR registered Under Section 295 C PPC at the Badami Bagh Police Station in Lahore, executed the report hastily and without proper and fair investigation, as has happened in almost every blasphemy case.
"Saleem Masih, Brother of Sawan Masih, said that his brother was innocent and that he had not committed blasphemy."
Gill said that during a visit he made to the accused home, his sister wept bitterly and asking about her brother who has a wife and three children.
Chaman Masih weeps as he shares his story
"His wife is also worried and weeping about her husband and said that the children who are asking about their father," he added. "Sawan Masih's father, Chaman Masih, was also weeping while explaining this tragedy, and he says it should not be happened with his Christian (Sharika) relatives because he thinks they will taunt his children.
"Christians are feeling insecure in Pakistan and remain always under threats of a religious mindset, especially due to the misuse of blasphemy laws against them. This tragedy has created an alarming situation for Pakistani Christians. They are considering their new generation's future and their safety. After losing their homes, they wonder who will construct their broken, horrified, terrified minds and hearts.
New Province for Christians?
"The solution to this tense situation is for the government to allow the demand of a separate province for Pakistani Christians as the Pakistan Christian Congress has been demanding for the last 20 years. This notion of a separate province is as important as the presence of Christians in Pakistan.
"This is not due to only political matters but this is due to clash of faiths. At the moment, only the Muslims have a right to say whatever they wish to say and preach, but Christians have no such right of religious liberty and expression of religion and thought and freedom to preach and teach according to our Biblical faith."
LEAD and PCC (Pakistan Christian Congress) have now requested that all Christian political, religious and civil society leaders raise their voices with the Pakistan Christian Congress for the establishment of a separate province for Christians, "where," said Mr. Gill, "we can live without fear from the majority's faith and concepts."