According to a story on ucanews.com, the website of the Union of Catholic Asian News, Christian leaders in Pakistan are urging their followers not to engage in discussions of Islamic doctrine with their Muslim neighbors. This warning came after the arrest of two Pakistani Christian brothers on charges of blasphemy against Islam but before the murder of the two accused brothers as they left court in the city of Faisalabad on Monday, as reported here yesterday in First Links.
As ucanews.com reports,
The Catholic Church has formed an inquiry committee of 15 lay people to investigate the facts of the case.
About 90 local religious leaders, including four Catholic priests, six Christian pastors and 80 Muslim clerics met at a local hotel on July 16 to discuss the issue.
They agreed to use their pulpits in a bid to stop further unrest by focusing Friday sermons and Sunday Masses on brotherhood and acceptance.
“Last Friday was crucial as such religious gatherings are often used to form mobs,” said Father Aftab James Paul, director of the Diocesan Commission for Interreligious Dialogue in Faisalabad.
“We are challenged by a large number of Islamic seminarians who are generally less moderate than common people. Also many self-proclaimed pastors are misguiding people, most of them illiterate.”
At Mass on Sunday, July 18, Dominican Father Pascal Paulus told parishioners at Holy Rosary Catholic Church in Waris Pura, a neighborhood in Faisalabad with a sizable Christian population, “Do not talk about the religion [of the majority]. Our survival depends on this.”
According to a Tuesday report from BBC News South Asia, “clashes broke out” in Waris Pura after the murder of the accused blasphemers, who were from that area, and “police reinforcements from nearby districts have been called in to restore order.”
As the BBC story notes, “Earlier this month, several hundred demonstrators marched to the Waris Pura slum, which is home to nearly 100,000 Christians, and demanded the death penalty for the two accused.” After that incident, during which a stone-throwing crowd of about a hundred persons mobbed Holy Rosary Church, the ucanews.com story notes that Father Paulus told his flock to “respect Islam and try to be tolerant and peaceful.”
The two murdered brothers were, as the BBC recalls, accused of writing a pamphlet “containing disrespectful remarks about the Prophet Muhammad.” Because, however, “the pamphlet had apparently been signed by the two brothers, whose addresses and mobile phone numbers were also given,” and, as a spokesman for the Pakistan Minorities Democratic Foundation said, “No-one in his right mind would issue a derogatory pamphlet against the Prophet and put his name and address on it,” the train of events “appears to be a conspiracy against peace and religious harmony in Faisalabad.”
Although American Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton was in Pakistan on Monday, the day of the murders, she apparently did not make reference to the situation in Faisalabad in an interview she gave to Fox News in Islamabad.