By BosNewsLife Asia Service with reporting by BosNewsLife’s Stefan J. Bos
LAHORE, PAKISTAN (BosNewsLife)– Christian rights activists and their supporters took to the streets of Pakistan’s second largest city Lahore Sunday, September 23, to protest the burning of a Lutheran church by Muslims angry over a U.S.-made anti-Islam film, and the disappearance of a Christian girl.
Some 100 demonstrators, including an adviser of the governor of Punjab province, Sardar Latif Khosa, gathered outside the Lahore Press Club with banners that included ‘We condemn the burning of the church in Mardan’, organizers said.
Lutheran Bishop Humphrey Peter told earlier that a crowd of some 8,000 people, many of them carrying petrol, attacked his St.Paul Church complex in Mardan city in Pakistan’s North-West Frontier Province on Friday, September 21, amid spreading protests against a film that portrays Prophet Muhammad as a womanizer.
Peter added that the church as well as “its school and the houses of the principal and pastor along with a vehicle were burned by the mob.”
Several people staying in the complex were injured, added investigator Farrukh H. Saif, executive director of Pakistan-based advocacy group World Vision In Progress, which helped organize Sunday’s rally.
He his group established that at least 22 people were killed nationwide in Friday’s violent protests against the “Innocence of Muslims” movie, which was partly posted on the video-sharing YouTube website in English and Arabic.
Amid rising tensions, a spokesperson of Pakistan’s Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, reportedly condemned a Pakistani minister for offering 100,000 dollars for the death of the maker of the film has.
Shafqat Jalil said Sunday, September 23, that the government ‘absolutely disassociated’ itself from comments by Railways Minister Ghulam Ahmad Bilour, Asian News International (ANI) news agency reported.
“I will pay whoever kills the makers of this video $100,000…If someone else makes other similar blasphemous material in the future, I will also pay his killers $100,000,” the minister, Ahmad Bilour, was quoted as saying over the weekend.
Christians have expressed concerns however that they will become targets as well, Saif told BosNewsLife earlier.
Saif added that Sunday’s demonstrators also condemned the “torture” and the September 14 disappearance of 16-year-old Christian Girl Sumbal Masih, who worked as a maid for a Muslim couple in Lahore.
He complained that police refuse to detain suspects. “Police are supporting and favoring the culprits.” Saif claimed police “have threatened the poor parents” that they will “be in serious trouble” unless they withdraw their complaint.
There was no immediate reaction from police, but rights activists say local authorities are known to work with influential Muslims and militants in several areas of the country.
Christian girls have also been kidnapped, and forced to marry and convert to Islam in several parts of Pakistan, according to several rights groups.
Saif said demonstrators have urged Punjab’s Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf and the country’s Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, to “take notice of these issues.”