By BosNewsLife Asia Service reporting from Pakistan
PESHAWAR/LAHORE (BosNewsLife)-- A Pakistani Christian family was hiding Sunday, October 13, after allegedly receiving death threats for protesting against twin suicide attacks at a historic church in the violence-plagued city of Peshawar, in which their friends were killed. As many as 171 people died and some 150 people were injured in the September 22 blasts at Peshawar's All Saints Church, church officials said.
Local resident Waqas Pervez, 26, told BosNewsLife that he and his family were "forced to flee" Peshawar, the capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, and now hide in another city after suspected Muslim militants threatened to kill him, his mother and other relatives.
He said the men were angry that he was openly expressing grief at an anti-violence demonstration about the loss of his friends and those who were injured in the suicide attacks.
"The problems began on Monday, September 23, when I and other Christians were protesting on [Peshawar's] University road near a Christian cemetery to mourn our loved ones and to express concerns over the suicide attacks. As we walked towards the Jamia Mosque, clerics and others came out and tried to stop the protesters and scatter them," he said.
Both the demonstrators and attackers were injured, according to witnesses.
"Clerics from the locality vowed to avenge the injuries and they started looking for the people who were leading the protest," Pervez said.
A day after, "several men came to my house where they threatened me and my mother who was injured in the attack," he said. "My father Griffon Pervez, my brother Fahad Pervez and my maternal uncle Johnson Younas tried to stop them, but they were assaulted also. My uncle was injured and they threatened to kill the whole family," Pervez recalled.
He said the family was forced to leave everything behind and now lives in hiding in another city.
A priest, who was not identified for security reasons, helped them escape.
Activists say this isn't an isolated case. Christians in Pakistan have complained about persecution for their faith in several parts of this heavily Islamic nation.
News of the tensions in Peshawar came while in Punjab province three Christians including a pastor feared for their lives after police charged them with blasphemy against Islam, BosNewsLife learned.
Pastor Adnan and fellow Christians Arfan and Mushtaq Masih said they were detained in Lahore city last Wednesday, October 9, under controversial blasphemy laws.
A Muslim man, identified as Abid Mehmood, complained that Pastor Adnan had written "derogatory remarks" in a banned book about Islam titled 'Why we became Muslims.'
"The incident took place at the shop of Mushtaq Masih and the Christians were charged soon after around midnight local time" said lawyer Sardar Mushtaq Gill, director of Christian advocacy group Legal Evangelical Association Development (LEAD).
"We have received a request for prayer for these and other Christians," he told BosNewsLife. "We must pray for the surrounding area and vicinity where a large number of Christians are living because the local Christians of the area are terrified and worried what will happen next."
Under Pakistan's blasphemy laws Christians can face long prison terms or even death for making derogatory remarks about Islam or or its Prophet Mohamed.
Human rights groups claim the legislation is often misused to settle personal disputes.
Activists say violence is increasing against Pakistani Christians, who comprise roughly three percent of Pakistan's over 193 million people. (With BosNewsLife correspondents reporting from Pakistan and editing by BosNewsLife's Stefan J. Bos).
(BosNewsLife, the first truly independent news agency covering persecuted Christians, is 'Breaking the News for Compassionate Professionals' since 2004).
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