Christians face persecution by Muslims after allegations of blasphemy in Pakistan

The Christian residents of Chak 44, a village in the city of Mandi Bahauddin, Punjab province in Pakistan are being threatened by the Muslim community after a Christian youth allegedly committed blasphemy against the Islamic religion.

(Reuters/Zohra Bensemra)Girls walk on a muddy lane towards their house in a slum on the outskirts of Islamabad, Pakistan, February 4, 2014.

Muslims in the area are demanding the handover of the Christian youth named Imran Masih who was reported to have been watching a blasphemous film on his cell phone a couple of weeks ago. Masih had been working as a sanitary worker in a rural health center in an adjacent village, Bosaal, when his Muslim co-workers spotted him watching the controversial movie.

Reports indicate that the enraged Muslims were planning to burn Masih alive in front of the local church as punishment for the blasphemous crime. Because of this, Masih and his family have since been in hiding, much to the frustration of the Muslim community who have decided to target the Christian families in Chak 44 instead. Only last Friday, May 13, the angry mob of Muslims tried to attack the houses of the Christian residents in the village. Fortunately, the violence was prevented by police officials.

The local mosque committee is now giving an ultimatum to the Christian residents. They made clear that for the violence to stop, the Christians should hand over Masih for punishment, or else they should either leave the village or convert to Islam.

There is also a bounty of PKR 100,000 or roughly around $955 for anyone who can provide information on Masih's location and PKR 200,000 for his arrest.

Many Muslim shop owners are also denying service to the Christians. Because of this, Christians would need to make all their way to the city center of Mandi Bahauddin just to buy basic supplies and food.

The Care Council for Human Rights said that urgent steps to mitigate the interfaith tensions should be done by the government and the interfaith harmony council. Saleem Iqbal, who is the spokesperson for the council, reached out to members of the Pakistani parliament and provincial assembly members but was not given any assistance.

"These entire minority MNAs and MPAs such as Kamran Micheal, Shehzad Munshi, Tariq Masih and Shakil Marth, and members of interfaith harmony councils enjoy the perks of representing us in the legislatures. However, they have done nothing till now and will only arrive here once tragedy strikes," he said, as quoted by the Daily Pakistan.