Pakistan Christian Family Hiding Amid Death Threats

Source:           www.bosnewslife.com

Date:               April 26, 2013

By Xavier P. William, BosNewsLife Special Correspondent reporting from Pakistan

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There have been protests against religious intolerance, but attacks against Christians continue, rights activists and churches say.


LAHORE, PAKISTAN (BosNewsLife)-- A Christian father said Friday, April 26, his family is hiding in the Pakistani city of Lahore after Islamic militants tried to abduct and kill one of his daughters because they refuse to convert to Islam.

Sadiq Masih Zafar told BosNewsLife that the threats come nearly a decade after his family was forced to flee the nearby city of Muridke, where another daughter was nearly strangled to death in 2004 because of their church work.

He said the problems began when the Lahore Church Council appointed him to supervise the construction of a local church building. "Religious extremists tried to pressurize and stop the construction and took over the church land,"
he recalled.

"They demolished the construction and brutally assaulted" him, family members and even workers, Zafar said. Soon after, "A mosque was constructed near the church land "and announcements were made that if the church is constructed, they would burn it," he added.

The "extremists", he claimed, also pressured him and his family to convert to Islam. He recalled that his daughter Sarwat Naheed was returning home in 2004 from the city of Faisalabad, when she was "abducted by masked men."

BROKEN LEGS

"They broke her legs, she had a severe head injury as they tried to strangle her," he said. "She was found unconscious in the fields."

Several days later his son Azeem Zafar was allegedly stopped on his way home and "assaulted" as well. Zafer said his family fled Muridke and settled in Lahore, the capital of Punjab province. But the "extremists" didn't stop looking for them, he recalled.

"I still remember that on March 27, 2004 [when] the family was sitting together in Bahar colony of Lahore, masked men forcefully entered our home."

His family moved away to another location in Lahore, but was recently discovered when daughter Asma Tosheeba joined a local medical school, he said.

"She was threatened and the extremists tried to abduct her." He complained that his family has been appealing for protection,
but police "failed to act". Police officials could not be reached for comment.

DAUGHTER HOME

Zafar said his family is now hiding and forced to keep Asma at home. "I don't want her to get abducted like Sarwat Naheed and suffer the same fate." He said Naheed is still facing "psychological treatment because of the trauma" after her kidnapping.

Priest Suleman John from the Lahore Diocese told BosNewsLife the threats against the family "is an example of the religious intolerance" in heavily Islamic Pakistan.

"The religious extremists brutally carry on their act without any problem as they don't fear the law. The law enforcing agencies are helpless against them making the religious minorities vulnerable," he added.

He called Punjab province, where the incidents took place, a "hub of religious persecution."

The priest said, "It is time for the authorities to act or we will be witnessing more often such incidents."

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