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Muslims Apologize for Attack on Pakistani Church


Kashmir militant instigated call for jihad from mosque minaret.

Pakistan_NewApostolicChurch 
 New Apostolic Church      (source: SLMP)
ISTANBUL, October 25 (Compass Direct News) – Muslims who attacked a Pakistani church and declared religious war against Christians from mosque minarets have apologized for their actions, human rights workers said.
Police no longer stand guard around Gowindh village’s sole church following its attackers’ apology October 12, a Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) member told Compass.
No charges have been brought against the 300 Punjabi Muslim villagers who vandalized the New Apostolic Church at 6 a.m. October 10. The mob broke church windows, threw dung on its walls and cut wires to the church’s loudspeaker.
But subsequent threats against Gowindh’s Christians were even more serious than the initial attack, Mehboob Khan of the HRCP told Compass.
Following these acts of vandalism, Muslim clerics called for jihad, Islamic holy war, against the Christian “infidels.” The clerics issued the call from the town’s eight mosques, Khan said.
Another HRCP worker who visited the village, located east of Lahore on the Indian border, said that the threats had included demands for Christians to convert to Islam.
“Become Muslims or be prepared to fight or die,” the clerics announced from the mosque loudspeakers, HRCP member Nadeem Anthony said. “This was the first time it happened, which is why the villagers were so scared.”
According to Anthony, the New Apostolic Church is more than 60 years old, built before the partition of India and Pakistan in 1947.
Police arrived 12 hours after the early-morning vandalism, delayed in part by bad road conditions and the fact that no Christians in the village had a telephone with which to call them, Anthony said.
Their arrival halted plans for further violence but did not stop Muslims in the village of 10,000 from declaring a boycott on its Christian minority, some 300-strong.
“Christians couldn’t get anything from Muslims’ shops,” Gowindh Christian leader Sattar Masih told Sharing Life Ministries Pakistan, a Christian rights group that visited the area. “They couldn’t go to the doctor as the doctors were Muslims.”
Khan, who also traveled to Gowindh with a fact-finding team following the attack, said that Muslims were angered over the church’s use of its loudspeaker. Members were using the amplifier to call the congregation to a prayer meeting each morning at 6 a.m.
Muslim villagers claimed that the call was interrupting fajr, the first of five daily Islamic calls to prayer made from the mosque minaret. They said that for months they had been asking the Christians not to use the loudspeaker, according to an October 17 article in English-language newspaper Daily Times.
Pakistan_ChurchInterior
Church interior       (source:SLMP)
According to Khan of the HRCP, fajr occurs at approximately 5 a.m., a full hour before Christians were using their loudspeaker.
Muhammad Sadiq, described as an influential Muslim in the village, initially claimed that there had been no attack on the church, according to the Daily Times.
“We have no grudges with the Christians,” an October 12 article quoted Sadiq as saying. The leader only admitted that certain villagers had cut wires to the church loudspeaker.
But a source who requested anonymity said that a Muslim who had recently returned from training with militant extremist groups in Kashmir had instigated the violence.
“He came back from military training and he had some propaganda against the Christians,” said the source who visited the village following the attack. The militant had convinced other villagers that local Christians were agents of the United States working to convert Muslims to Christianity.
Pakistan and India have disputed the ownership of majority-Muslim Kashmir since the area’s Hindu ruler chose to join India in 1947.
Under the supervision of supervisory police officer Athar Ismail, representatives of the Muslim community eventually promised to drop the boycott.
“We apologize to the Christians for desecrating the church and hurting their religious sentiments,” stated an apology signed by Muslim leaders on October 12, the Union for Catholic Asia News (UCAN) reported.
Muslim community leaders Daler Khan, Haji Yaseen Gardor and Tariq Mehar signed the statement in the presence of 100 Muslims, Christian leaders and local police, UCAN reported.
In a euphemistic reference to the calls for jihad issued from mosque minarets, the signatories also promised not to misuse loudspeakers in the future.
No charges have been brought against villagers who attacked the church, instituted the boycott and called for holy war against the Christians, leaving the Christian community anxious about the future.
According to UCAN, the churchgoers decided not to use the loudspeaker for the first few days after the agreement was reached with the Muslims.
“We are even willing to pray at home to avoid further troubles,” Sattar Masih told UCAN.
But Anthony of the HRCP told Compass yesterday that Gowindh Christians have now resumed use of the loudspeaker.
The incident is consistent with the ongoing pattern of isolated church attacks in Pakistan where perpetrators later apologize and avoid facing charges.
Several Christians were injured and Christian literature was destroyed when Muslim villagers attacked a church north of Faisalabad in June. The congregation had obtained permission from the village government to use a loudspeaker to broadcast evangelistic meetings they were planning to hold the night of the attack.
In a similar out-of-court settlement, the attackers apologized but were not charged for the violence.
In May in Pakistan’s North West Frontier Province town of Charsadda, two madrassah (Muslim seminary) students confessed to having authored anonymous threats against Christians. At least 50 Christians had fled Charsadda after they received a letter telling them to convert to Islam or face suicide bombing. But the Christian community chose not to press charges and on June 4 officially forgave the two students, who said the threats had been a prank.
Christians make up approximately 1.5 percent of Pakistan’s population, according to the U.S. State Department’s 2007 Report on International Religious Freedom.

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