By BosNewsLife Asia Service
ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN (BosNewsLife)– An elderly Christian man in Pakistan, who faced charges of “blasphemy” against Islam has reportedly “requested prayers” as he and his family remain in hiding following threats.
Walter Fazal Khan, 84, was detained in the city of Lahore in 2007 for allegedly burning the Koran, deemed a holy book by Muslims.
He and his family have denied wrongdoing and suggested the incident “orchestrated” by Khan’s driver, identified as Riaz, as part of efforts to expropriate Khan’s lands.
Riaz was allegedly angry that Khan refused to sell the remaining part of his land to him and Muslim businessmen.
The Muslims men already purchased about one hundred square meters of land from the “blasphemer” for 2.5 million rupee ($26,000), Christians said.
Khan had put the remaining land up for sale at a price of 12.4 million rupee ($130,000) about 4 million rupees more than the price offered by Muslims businessmen.
Riaz has denied the land dispute was behind the alleged Koran burning incident, saying he just knocked on the door “as something was burning”.
A burnt Koran was found in one of the rooms, and Riaz brought Islamic clerics to the house who allegedly tried to beat Khan.
Police eventually intervened and Khan was charged under Pakistan’s controversial blasphemy legislation for desecrating a Koran, but released on bail.
“Although Walter was released on bail shortly after his arrest, his family continues to face persecution and threats,” cautioned advocacy group Voice Of the Martyrs Canada (VOMC), which supports the family.
“They have lost their home and are forced to conceal their whereabouts,” VOMC added in remarks obtained by BosNewsLife Saturday, September 15.
It wasn’t the first time the Khan family had been targeted. His 86-year-old wife, Gladys Khan, was forcibly converted to Islam by militants, according to the Center for Legal Aid Assistance and Settlement (CLAAS). which supports Pakistani Christians.
VOMC told BosNewsLife that it has urged its supporters to pray that the Christian man and his family “will remain steadfast in the Lord and that He will give them the strength they require” and that “God will blind the eyes of those who wish to harm them.”
The group stressed that “prayers are also needed” for other Christians detained on blasphemy charges.
They include Asia Bibi, a Christian mother of five who was sentenced to death in November 2010 and has been awaiting the outcome of her appeals procedure behind bars.
She is the first Pakistani woman ever to receive a death sentence for blasphemy.
Her life has been threatened, with a Muslim cleric putting a price on her head, according to rights activists and Pakistani Christians.
Last week, 14-year-old Ramshi Masih, a mentally challenged Christian girl, was released on bail on after she was detained for blasphemy.
“She and her family have been put under the protection of Pakistani Minister Paul Bhatti,” confirmed Farrukh Saif, the executive director of the Pakistan-based advocacy and aid group World Vision in Progress.
In early 2011, Salman Taseer, governor of Pakistan’s Punjab province, and Shahbaz Bhatti, Minister of Minority Affairs, were assassinated, allegedly for speaking out against the controversial blasphemy legislation.
Minority Christians have also expressed concerns about deadly attacks against churches and other Christian sites, following blasphemy disputes, amid concerns of even more tensions as worldwide protests spread over an anti-Islam film that was recently posted on the YouTube website.