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Friday, November 9, 2012

Pakistani Preacher Jailed for Sermon at Funeral
Muslims accuse him of “blasphemy,” order relatives to leave village or be set on fire

By Jeremy Reynalds
Senior Correspondent for ASSIST News Service

LAHORE, PAKISTAN (ANS) -- An evangelist accused of defaming Islam was telling mourners at a funeral about the sacrifice of Christ when Muslims present took offence, his son said.

According to a story by Morning Star News, Karma Patras, a 55-year-old resident of Chak 113-RB Bado Malhi of Punjab Province's Nankana District, has been in jail since Oct. 13 for allegedly "outraging the religious feelings" of Muslims at the funeral of a Christian where most of those present were church members.

He faces a sentence of 10 years in prison and a fine under Section 295-A of Pakistan's widely condemned blasphemy statutes.

Section 295-A states, “Whoever, with deliberate and malicious intention of outraging the religious feelings of any class of the citizens of Pakistan, by words, either spoken or written, or by visible representations insults the religion or the religious beliefs of that class, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to 10 years, or with fine, or with both.”

"My father addressed the gathering at the bereaved family's house by sharing Jesus Christ's sacrificial death and resurrection," his son, Robin Masih, told Morning Star News. "He did not know that there were some Muslims sitting among the mourners. He shared with the people how Christ had sacrificed his life for our sins … Muslims have a different view on this subject, and those present thought he was challenging their belief of sacrificing animals."

Patras, who Morning Star News said recently started a Pentecostal church in his own village, had been invited to speak at the funeral in the neighboring village of Mehmandwali, Chak 111-RB on Oct. 13, a few days before Islamic Eid-ul-Adha celebrations involving animal sacrifice.

"They fiercely objected to his sermon and even tried to attack him," Morning Star News reported Masih said. "He escaped a beating due to timely intervention by the other Christians."

Morning Star News said some reports state Patras was asked the Christian position on the animal sacrifice of Eid-ul-Adha, an Islamic practice in remembrance of Abraham sacrificing a ram instead of his son. Patras' son insisted that Patras said in his sermon only that Christians do not have to sacrifice animals because Christ had made the ultimate sacrifice for them on the cross.

"He did not say anything offensive to Muslims and was just elaborating the Christian belief of Christ's sacrifice to the gathering," Morning Star News reported Masih said. "The Muslims thought that he was challenging their faith by denying animal sacrifice."

Morning Star News reported Christians at the funeral were able to cool rising tempers, he said, and the incident appeared to have been resolved. But when Patras returned home, Muslims from Mehmandwali called his cell phone and asked him to meet them in their village. Patras gathered a few Christians from his village to accompany him, but before they could set off for Mehmandwali, police arrived and arrested him, Masih said.

Morning Star News said following the arrest, a Muslim mob stormed the Sangla Hill Police Station and demanded that officers hand Patras over to them, but by then he had already been transferred to another location.

Masih said that after his father's arrest, area Muslims told him and his four brothers to leave the village or else they would set them on fire. They also ordered the Christians not to lock their houses.

"My brothers and I have three-to-four children each, and we did not have many choices at that point," he said. "We gathered whatever valuables we could and left our homes."

There are about 200 Christians in the village, and Masih's family and those of his brothers sought refuge with relatives elsewhere, Morning Star News reported he said.

Morning Star News said Patras awaits a second hearing on his bail application; the first was denied. Sangla Hill Civil Judge Mansoor Qureshi rejected Patras' bail application because police had yet to submit their findings.

Patras's lawyer, Tahir Naveed, told Morning Star News that he was preparing a new bail application. The blasphemy law's Section 295-A requires evidence of intent for conviction.

"The case against the pastor is religiously motivated, and although it may take some time, I'm confident that he will be released soon," Naveed said.

Morning Star News said in Pakistan, however, trials can go on for years, and lower courts tend to decide blasphemy cases based on fear of violence by Islamist groups rather than on merit. Most blasphemy acquittals take place at the appellate level, after courts have denied bail so often that the accused spend years in jail.

Pakistan is nearly 96 percent Muslim, according to Operation World, and religiously charged court cases commonly involve clamoring crowds of Muslims and other pressures coming to bear on lawyers and judges. Christians make up 2.45 percent of the population.

Morning Star News said Sangla Hill was the site of mob violence in Nov. 2005 after a Muslim accused Yousaf Masih of burning a Koran. Some 2,000 Muslims attacked four churches in the area. Masih was later acquitted after his accuser, Mohamed Saleem, admitted that he had not seen the Christian set fire to a building used to store copies of Islam's sacred book.

Area residents later said that Saleem had leveled blasphemy accusation after suffering heavy gambling losses to Masih.

Find Morning Star News at the website of International Christian Response (ICR), http://christianresponse.org/index.php?page=news

Later this year look for Morning Star News at www.morningstarnews.org

 


Jeremy Reynalds is Senior Correspondent for the ASSIST News Service, a freelance writer and also the founder and CEO of Joy Junction, New Mexico's largest emergency homeless shelter, http://www.joyjunction.org He has a master's degree in communication from the University of New Mexico, and a Ph.D. in intercultural education from Biola University in Los Angeles. His newest book is "Homeless in the City."


Additional details on "Homeless in the City" are available at http://www.homelessinthecity.com. Reynalds lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico. For more information contact: Jeremy Reynalds at jeremyreynalds@comcast.net.

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