By BosNewsLife Asia Service
LAHORE, PAKISTAN (BosNewsLife)– A tense calm has returned to a Pakistani village in Pakistan’s turbulent Punjab province after local Christians announced they had forgiven armed Muslims who attacked their church, mediators said.
Christians in the mainly Muslim village of Lakho Ki, outside Lahore city, were badly shaken when their Presbyterian church was attacked last Sunday, May 29, explained rights group Sharing Life Ministry Pakistan (SLMP), which mediated in the conflict.
Armed Muslims, who allegedly disrupted the worship service, were seen cursing the congregation, smashing a glass altar and damaging Bibles and a cross.
Three or four elderly Christians were slapped and beaten with bamboo sticks, although none required medical treatment, Christians said.
The SLMP said however that local Christians decided not to start legal action against suspects because Muslim community and religious leaders publicly apologized for the incident in front of the church.
In a statement, the group said, Christians wanted to show that “forgiveness was more powerful than revenge.”
Another reason not to pursue the case were reports that police were reluctant to investigate the incident as the leader of the Muslim intruders was identified as a nephew of a former Member of the Punjab Assembly, the regional parliament, Christians said. Police officials reportedly made clear they wanted Christians to accept the apology to end the dispute.
Additionally, impoverished Christians in the area made clear they depend on richer Muslim landowners for jobs.
Yet, granting forgiveness remains a strong statement in a country where notorious blasphemy laws are misused to jail Christians and other religious minorities, according to Christian rights activists.
Among those detained is Asia Bibi, a mother of five, who was accused of uttering blasphemous words against Prophet Mohammad during an argument with fellow farm workers. The Christian woman was sentenced to death in November last year and still awaits the outcome of an appeal. Bibi has denied the charges.
In March, gunmen shot and killed Pakistan’s Minister for Minorities Shahbaz Bhatti, a Christian, who publicly challenged the country’s controversial blasphemy laws and demanded more rights for minority Christians in the mainly Islamic nation.
Earlier, in January, the governor of Punjab province, Salman Taseer, was shot dead by one of his own bodyguards after he campaigned against the blasphemy legislation.