Muslims Demand Church Vacate or Face Blasphemy Charge
A Christian congregation in southern Pakistan has received a deadly ultimatum from local Muslim criminals: give up their church's land or face a false accusation of blasphemy.
The threats against Jerusalem Church, a Pentecostal body of believers located in Karachi, began in May by Muslims infamous for their violent reputation.
"This church was constructed in the late '90s and carries the membership of over 300 Christian families; however, the (criminals) are after it and want to grab the whole property to use it for their agendas," John Nazareth Adil, a local social activist, told the International Christian Concern.
For Christians in Pakistan, blasphemy accusations, true or not, can be lethal.
Just last fall, a Christian couple near Lahore was beaten and burned alive after allegedly burning papers containing verses from the Koran. And in March 2013, an entire neighborhood was razed to the ground after a local believer was accused of blasphemy.
Despite the danger, the church is standing its ground.
"The Christians of the locality have responded in a brave manner and announced that they will die before they let them grab the church property," ICC quoted Jerusalem Church Pastor Ilyas Masih.
Meanwhile, the international community is being urged to stand in the gap for Pakistan's persecuted Christian community.
"We are not safe in our house, nor in the church, neither on the roads," one church member said. "A Christian's life, worship places, and properties have no weight; therefore, the international community must take notice of these cases and put pressure on the authorities to ensure the dignity, rights, and protection of Christians in this country."