Hundreds of Pakistani Christians finally gathered the courage to return to the homes they left after fleeing due to fear of threats of violence. Residents of the neighborhood in Charar in Lahore, Pakistan, are now filling their empty houses one after the other.
Days after Christmas, the neighborhood of Charar was surrounded by fear as radical Islamists threatened to burn the houses of Christians in the place and sought to behead a Christian pastor after seeing his Facebook post that the group interpreted as blasphemy.
On Dec. 22, Pastor Raja Waris published a Facebook post that the group of radical Islamists took as an offensive update and accused the Christian pastor of blasphemy. Waris immediately took the post down and apologized. The issue was settled the following day as far as the Christians in the place knew yet the Muslim group continued to pursue his beheading afterward.
The group did not only aim for Waris' arrest but even threatened to burn the houses of every Christian in the neighborhood. Upon hearing the potential danger, Christians sought the shelter of friends and relatives from other places and choose to spend Christmas away from their comfort zones.
On Dec. 28, the Pakistani police officials took Waris into custody. Residents are still clueless about why the authorities took the Christian pastor.
"We've been looking to see if there was a First Information Report as to why he's being held," Will Stark, International Christian Concern's South Asia Regional Manager, told the Christian Post. "We have not found one," he added.
Others believe that the police were thronged and arrested Waris because of the blasphemy accusations. However, Stark expressed concern that if Muslims found out that it was an arrest, they may interpret it as an official approval to attack Christians in the community.
"If the government or the police force says 'Yes, this is blasphemy," it's going to give credibility to the fringe voices," Stark explained. "Blasphemy accusations in Pakistan have a tendency to ignite very emotional outrage," he added.
In Pakistan, Christians confessing "Jesus Christ is our Lord and Savior" or "He is the final prophet," could be accused of blasphemy. Even declaring that "Jesus is God," could be considered blasphemous to them.
Due to the violent response of radical Islamists in Pakistan, Christians in the country show high respect towards the Muslim community. For them, being accused of blasphemy could lead them to one of the most dangerous threats in life.
"The whiff of him being a blasphemer is enough to be a black mark on his life for the rest of his life," said Stark.
Muslims in the said country considers blasphemy as even a justification to commit murder. There are many reported cases of a murderer acquired after accusing his victim of blasphemy.
Since there are higher reports of violence during the Christian observed holidays, the Pakistani government encouraged churches to increase their security during these seasons. On Christmas of 2020, the officials deployed thousands of police to look after the safety of churches as they celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.