Thirsty Christian Accused of Blasphemy for Drinking Water from Mosque
By Jeremy Reynalds, Senior Correspondent, ASSIST News Service (firstname.lastname@example.org)
LONDON, UK (ANS — October 13, 2015) — A Christian family accused of blasphemy narrowly escaped an extra-judicial killing after a Muslim lynch mob tried to murder them.
According to a news release from the British Pakistani Christian Association (BPCA), Aftab Gill, 40, lived in Railway Colony in Wazirabad, Distt Gujranwala, and worked as a master tailor. He has five children, three sons and two daughters.
Their house is near a local mosque and, like many other local people, they regularly drew clean water from the water tap outside the mosque-their only option. The water was paid for in accordance with the mosque policy.
On Aug. 14 2015, Muslim Zain Shah, 18, from the neighboring village told Aftab Gill’s sons, Akash, 12, and Adnan, 5, to convert to Islam, but they refused.
On the same day, while Aftab was taking water from the water tap at the local mosque, BPCA reported the same man shouted at Aftab and said, “You Christians are not allowed to take water from the mosque. If you want to drink our water you must embrace Islam and pray regularly inside the mosque. Otherwise evil infidels defile our water taps.”
A few days later Zain Shah came to the mosque with other Muslim men, and again demanded the sons convert to Islam.
They slapped Gill’s eldest son Akash, who refused to convert, and at that point Aftab replied to the men, saying “You failed to convert Baba Guru Nanak (founder of the Sikh faith), so why pursue converting my children who follow the true and living God?”
BPCA said Zain and his friends then started to beat the father and his sons, and while local police saw the altercation and intervened, they refused to file a complaint against the Muslim aggressors.
Two hours later Zain and his brother visited their home accompanied by a mob of about 200 men, ready to lynch the family. An area resident called the police who dispersed the crowd before any violence occurred.
Later that day a few elders from the Christian community asked police officials to accompany them with Aftab, so they could meet with the local cleric to resolve the issue.
Despite the general perception that local Muslim clerics deliver hate speeches in the mosque, this one was different.
BPCA said he assured the terrified Christian family that he would not allow the situation to escalate. However, he suggested that Aftab needed to leave the village for the sake of his own and his family’s future, believing this would reduce tension in the community.
Since then Aftab and his family have moved away from the area, leaving Aftab’s distraught mother Bashiran Bibi living alone in the former family home.
BPCA reported she said, “Life for Christians in Pakistan is now worse than ever. We are attacked daily and treated worse than rats. Muslims do not want us as their neighbors because they believe we are evil and have satanic diseases. My son and his family came close to death and we were all terrified when the mob came to our house.”
She continued, “I prayed to God for His protection and by His grace we have survived, but now my children are far away from me and I am very lonely. My tears are constant.”
BPCA said there was no First Investigation Report (FIR) registered at the local police station as the issue was resolved peacefully outside the courts.
According to BPCA, “There are a few other Christian families living in the same area, and we are concerned for their safety. The tensions in the community have somewhat dissipated but could erupt again at any time as no separate safe drinking water facility exists for the Christians, requiring them to also use the Mosque tap.”
The BPCA would like to install a clean water pump in the area for this hard-pressed community and are hoping to raise £750 for that purpose. They hope to install it in the local church, and see it become a beacon of hope for a suffering minority.
Shamim Masih said that living near any mosque for a Christian family in a Muslim dominated country like Pakistan can be very dangerous. He recalled living in Rawalpindi in a rented house near a mosque.
He continued, “Normally during hot summers, water levels dropped and we faced a shortage of water. People used to collect water from the nearby mosque, paying them a small fee. I was forced to do the same and we happily paid our contribution until one day the cleric came to know that we are from the Christian faith. Immediately the local cleric stopped us from taking water from the mosque which caused us great difficulty.”
He added that moving, they faced more discrimination. “We saw a house for rent and agreed terms with the owner, but when I shared I was Christian with the landlord he refused us his house as he will not let it to a Christian. The majority of Muslims living in rural areas of the country think that Christians are inferior and unholy people.”
For more information visit www.britishpakistanichristians.org
Photo captions: 1) Bashiran Bibi forced to live alone since her son Aftab Gill was accused of blasphemy. 2) Front door of the local mosque. 3) Aftab Gill’s uncle Riaz Masih, a local cobbler. 4) Jeremy and Elma Reynalds.
About the writer: 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, 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 “From Destitute to Ph.D.” Additional details on “From Destitute to Ph.D.” are available at www.myhomelessjourney.com. Reynalds lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico with his wife, Elma. For more information contact: Jeremy Reynalds at email@example.com.
Note: If you would like to help support the ASSIST News Service, please go to www.assistnews.net and click on the DONATE button to make you tax-deductible gift (in the US), which will help us continue to bring you these important stories.
** You may republish this and any of our ANS stories with attribution to the ASSIST News Service (www.assistnews.net)