A Christian pastor in Pakistan now faces blasphemy charges over a Facebook post.
A Christian pastor in the Charar neighborhood of Lahore, Pakistan faces charges for allegedly committing blasphemy over a Facebook post. On Dec. 27, the 25-year old Pastor Raja Warris was taken to police custody after posting a social media post that Muslims claim to be critical of Islam.
Police officials filed blasphemy charges against Warris under Section 295-A and Section 298-A of Pakistan's blasphemy laws. He was charged for allegedly committing "deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings," the International Christian Concern (ICC) reported.
Reports say that on Dec. 22, Warris posted a Facebook update that ignited anger from the Muslim community. The pastor immediately took down the post and apologized for the offense caused. Sources say that the case was resolved that day.
However, even after the social media update was taken down and the officials considered the case solved, the problem went worse. On Dec. 26, a large group of Muslims went to the community where Warris lives and demanded the beheading of the pastor.
The mob said they will do as they threaten if the police officials will not do anything to make the young pastor suffer the consequences of his act. The group further threatened to set the whole village on fire.
Police officials intervened with the situation and headed a negotiation with the rallying group. Leaders from the Christian community, on the other hand, reached out to the authorities seeking instructions on how to resolve the escalating situation.
"We sought time for negotiation with the protest leaders, but the police said they could not guarantee the safety of our people if the accused was not presented for arrest," said Rev. Ayub Gujjar, Vice Moderator of the Raiwind Diocese of the Church of Pakistan.
Although against their own will, Christian leaders had to agree to surrender Warris to the authorities in order to calm the situation and to save the hundreds of Christians from having their houses burned down. The leaders sought officials' assurance that Warris life will not be in danger once in police custody.
"We reluctantly agreed to bring Warris, but demanded that he be kept at an undisclosed location due to the serious threat to his life," Gujjar explained, according to ICC.
However, since the authorities could not assure the security of every individual in the community from the threat of mob violence, fear continued to surround the entire place. Although anti-riot policemen surrounded the place, hundreds of Christians from the community fled their homes and sought shelter from relatives and friends in communities far from risk.
"The situation turned dangerous when someone found out the Muslims were planning to set fire to the houses of Christians," Saleem Khokhar, a displaced Christian from Charar said. "This forced the Christians to flee the neighborhood," Khokhar added.
Meanwhile, if Warris will be convicted of the blasphemy charges filed against him, he could suffer up to 10 years imprisonment. As of the moment, there are 24 reported cases of Christians imprisoned for 21 blasphemy cases represented at different levels of Pakistan's judicial process.