A Christian in Pakistan has been arrested and charged by police for blasphemy after allegedly sharing a video to social media that authorities report led to the violent attacks on Christian homes and businesses more than 60 miles away.
The video, shared to TikTok by an illiterate 27-year-old named Ehsaan Shan Masih, reportedly showed the material that led to the rioting that began on Aug. 16 in Jaranwala. Two Christians there were charged after one found desecrated pages of the Quran accompanied by blasphemous comments attached to a photo of him and his brother, according to Morning Star News.
Last week a Muslim mob stormed a Christian suburb in Pakistan’s eastern Punjab province, burning one church, damaging two others, and demolishing the house of a local Christian, Raja Amir, and his friend after accusing him of desecrating the pages of Islam’s holy book
Masih was arrested on Aug. 19 for blasphemy after he allegedly shared the now-viral video to TikTok. Members of the Islamist extremist party Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan had called for protests against him, according to Morning Star News.
While the Christian community was attacked and terrorized, Bishop Abraham Daniel of the Sahiwal Baptist Church told the outlet,
“A major crisis was averted due to timely action by the police.”
Masih and his family were taken into protective police custody. He remains in jail on judicial remand and could face years of incarceration before his case is finally resolved. Among other charges, he was booked under Section 295-A of Pakistan’s blasphemy statutes relating to “deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs,” punishable by up to 10 years in prison, a fine or both, Morning Star reported.
Ehsaan is a laborer and father to two minor children – he cannot read or write and barely manages his livelihood,” Pastor Daniel told the outlet. “He came across a video on social media related to the attacks in Jaranwala that he posted on his TikTok account. Ehsaan was probably not even aware that sharing such content is a crime, but it’s said that ignorance of the law is not an excuse.”
“We pray for his early release, but at the same time I’d urge my fellow Christians to be extra cautious on social media,” the pastor added.
Masih was also charged under Section 295-B relating to desecration of the Koran, punishable by life in prison and a fine, and Section 11 of the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act relating to dissemination of hate speech, according to Morning Star.
Pakistan Compensating Christians for Homes, Businesses Destroyed by Rioters
As CBN’s Faithwire reported on Tuesday, authorities in Pakistan are handing out cash to Christians whose homes and places of worship were destroyed last week by the Muslim rioters.
A cross remains on the wall in the ruins of a Salvation Army church building burned on Aug. 16 in Jaranwala, Pakistan. (Photo credit: Morning Star News)
Nearly 100 Christians later returned to their homes in Jaranwala to find complete destruction. Many believers, according to a report from The Associated Press, have been living outside over fears their houses might collapse due to damage from the fires.
Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar, who is serving as the interim leader of Pakistan, said Monday each household will receive two million rupees ($6,800) as repayment for the damage. In a televised address, Kakar pledged to punish all those responsible for the violent attack and described the rioters as “enemies of humanity.”
Police have so far detained 160 rioters in a series of raids in the wake of the rampage, one of the most destructive in the country’s history.
Mohsin Naqvi, the top official in the Punjab province, shared news of the compensations on social media Sunday.
“In solidarity with our Christian brethren, the Cabinet Meeting was held in AEC Church, Esa-Nagri, Jaranwala, symbolizing unity and inclusivity. Within 72 hours, two Churches were fully restored. The Punjab Govt is committed in restoring all other damaged churches. 20 Lakh each will be given to those whose houses were tragically burnt. Insha Allah, this assistance will reach them within the next 48 hours. Together, we stand strong strong,” he wrote.
Naqvi visited Jaranwala on Sunday and held a meeting with local leaders at a burned church.
“They are worried for their safety; they are worried for their children, who witnessed the tragedy and are traumatized,” Khalid Mukhtar, a priest in the city, said of the Christian community there, noting all 26 churches in the city were in some way attacked, burned, or damaged.
While Naqvi said the payouts would be completed within the next 48 hours and claimed repair work has already begun, Mukhtar argued that’s not really happening. The priest said the walls of at least two churches have just been repainted rather than repaired.
Pakistan’s Blasphemy Laws Can Lead to Death Sentence
As CBN News has reported, under Pakistan’s harsh blasphemy laws, anyone accused of insulting Islam or Mohammad can be sentenced to death. These laws are poorly defined and require low standards of evidence. Although no one has ever been executed for blasphemy, dozens of people have been killed by mobs for just being accused of it, and many other lives have been ruined.
The blasphemy laws are often used as a weapon of revenge against both Muslims and non-Muslims to settle personal scores or to gain the upper hand in disputes over money, property, or business.
Pakistan is listed as No. 7 on Open Doors’ 2023 World Watch List of countries where it is dangerous to be a follower of Jesus Christ. The country was listed as No. 8 on the list last year.