By BosNewsLife Asia Service
LAHORE, PAKISTAN (BosNewsLife)– An evangelical church leader and another pastor in Pakistan’s second largest city Lahore were hiding Sunday, December 4, after being accused of blasphemy against Islam, while a woman was hoping to avoid a long prison term on similar charges, their supporters told BosNewsLife.
The independent Center for Legal Aid, Assistance and Settlement (CLAAS) said the targeted Christians are the evangelical ‘Bishop’ Pervaiz Joseph, who leads the Pastors Care Ministries group and a charismatic gospel church in Lahore, and Pastor Baber George of the Full Gospel Assemblies Church Pakistan, the oldest Pentecostal church in Pakistan.
Muslim leaders reportedly claim that the men made “derogatory remarks” against the Prophet Muhammad during discussions, charges they strongly deny, CLAAS said.
It comes while elsewhere in Lahore Christian woman Ruqqiya Bibi “fights to overturn her 25-year prison sentence for blasphemy,” CLAAS explained. “Her appeal has just come before the High Court in Lahore, eight months after she was imprisoned for defiling the Koran by supposedly touching it with unwashed hands.”
Her lawyer, Naeem Shakir, has denied the charges, saying witnesses brought forward by the prosecution “contradict those mentioned” in what is known as the ‘First Information Report’ to police.
He has pressed for her acquittal and release from prison.
It comes at a time when Christians are increasingly under pressure in the Islamic nation not to mention Jesus Christ, according to CLAAS investigators.
Mobile phone companies have reportedly been instructed to ban customers from even texting ‘Jesus Christ’.
Telenor Pakistan and Ufone said in a statement last month that they had been sent a list of words and expressions deemed “obscene” and impermissible by the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA).
“The list of offending words includes Jesus Christ” in the local language, CLAAS said.
Nasir Saeed, director of CLAASUK, told BosNewsLife that the inclusion of Jesus Christ on the list of offensive words was another example of the “intense hatred” felt towards Christians in Pakistan.
“It beggars belief that Jesus Christ could be considered a word offensive to Muslims as he is written about as a great prophet in the Koran,” Saeed added.
“It would seem that Pakistani Muslim majority hatred for Christians exceeds the love for one of their own prophets.”