By Jawad Mazhar, Special Correspondent BosNewsLife reporting from Pakistan
LAHORE, PAKISTAN (BosNewsLife)– A Christian journalist in Pakistan feared for his life Easter Sunday, April 12, after receiving threatening letters for publishing pro-democracy columns in a national daily and refusing to convert to Islam.
George Masih, 43, who lives with his wife Suneeta Bibi and his three young children at Gulistan Colony at the town of Lahore, wrote a number of columns and articles for the Aaj Kal, a Lahore-based daily.
His first column, “Qaum Ab Jaag Jaye” (“The Nation should wake-up now”) allegedly aroused anger among Muslims in the area after its initial publication on August 11, last year.
Unaware of the sentiments, George wrote two more columns titled “Jamhuriat Ka Suraj” (“The Sunrise of Democracy”) and “Jamhuriat Ki Fattah” (The Triumph of Democracy”) in September. Another column was published on October 16, entitled “Main Pakistan Hoon” (“I am Pakistan”).
Masih wanted to promote more religious tolerance and democracy in the Islamic nation, said the Center for Legal Aid Assistance and Settlement (CLAAS), which supports the journalist.
George said he received his first threatening letter October 28, from the Islamic Tanzeem Organization, threatening “dire consequences” for him and his family, if he did not convert to Islam.
“George it would be better if you embraced Islam as soon as possible. Your name is the same as the [ex-president] of the USA, George Bush. We hate that stupid American. You should change your name and embrace Islam, or else you will suffer along with your family,” the letter said.
On December 12, 2008, George said he received another letter in which “the fanatics” again urged him to embrace Islam, and “directly threatened to kill” him and his family.
He initially ignored the threats but eventually turned to police for help, following more threats, CLAAS said. Local police initially refused to take action against suspects, and questioned his motives but changed their mind after they were ordered by the Session’s Court Lahore on February 11 to take action, trial observers said.
However so far no suspects have been detained and George’s family was in hiding this Easter amid of more attacks, Christians said.
CLAAS National Director Joseph Francis condemned the threatening letters and urged law enforcement agencies “to resolve the problem and provide sufficient protection to the Christian journalist and his family.”
There have been reportedlu an increasing number of Islamic threats and attacks against Christians in several areas of Pakistan.