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Is another Crusade brewing? Christians fight back against Muslim mobs in Pakistan

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
April 24th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Christians in Pakistan have clashed with Muslims in an effort to save their neighborhoods from destruction. The clash, which included small arms fire and police intervention, occurred earlier this month when clerics accused Christians of blasphemy.

LAHORE, PAKISTAN (Catholic Online) - Recently, a rare clash between Muslims and Christians occurred in the Francisabad settlement of Gujranwala, Pakistan. What makes this incident exceptional is that the Christians fought back.

Sectarian violence across the region often occurs as Muslims take great pains to defend their faith and to keep competing religious influences at bay. While there are several strains of Islam, there are some uniquely conservative and aggressive strains in Pakistan and the surrounding countries.

The most typical spark for violence is usually personal, as two people, one a Muslim and the other of a different faith, have an intense disagreement that mushrooms into violence. This is exacerbated the by nation's blasphemy laws which are used to accuse and sometimes condemn people of other faiths.

Attacks are almost always initiated by Muslim mobs which will destroy entire neighborhoods if given the opportunity. Locals say the blasphemy laws and mob violence are often used to drive competitors out of business and to suppress Christians and those of competing faiths who might otherwise rise. Christians and others complain of discrimination in the workplace and the need to pay bribes to Muslim officials for protection, permissions, and advancements.

The clash in Francisabad was started when several Christian boys were riding in a large rickshaw and listening to music from the vehicle's speakers. The rickshaw was large and so it stopped to pick up two Muslim clerics who were offended that the boys were listening to music. They demanded the driver turn off the music. The young men refused and the clerics asked if they were Muslim. When the boys answered as Christians, the clerics became violent, attacking the boys and even the driver.

The next day, elders from both neighborhoods, aware of the incident, agreed to meet at a police checkpoint, but the Muslim elders arrived early and demanded the police arrest the boys for disrespecting the Quran.

The police refused and that's when the clerics returned to their neighborhood to incite their fellow Muslims. Several hundred rallied to the clerics and took to the streets with weapons. The armed mob turned their anger against Christians shops and destroyed market stalls and inventory. The mob, accompanied by police, made its way to Francisabad.

There, the Christians fearing for their homes and lives, gathered at the local Catholic church and the Christian men took to the streets with arms of their own. Accounts agree that the Muslims fired first, and the Christians returned fire. Miraculously, nobody was hit by the gunfire.

Police later filed charges against about 400 people accused of rioting and government officials have set up a special commission to investigate the matter.

For once, Christians have stood up to the dominant Muslim majority who threatened to destroy their neighborhood and church. It's a remarkable show of bravery in a powerfully conservative Islamic state that is prone to violence.

The question authorities must now answer: is this is a harbinger of more to come?

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