Bishop and pastor in Pakistan accused of blasphemy

Two Christian leaders, Bishop Pervaiz Joseph and Rev Baber George, have become the target of a blasphemy law which forced them into hiding with their families in Pakistan.

According to Global Christian Voice, Bishop Joseph leads the Pastors Care Ministries and also serves as the Pastor of a Charismatic Gospel Church located in Lahore, Pakistan.

Pastor George is working with the Full Gospel Assemblies Church Pakistan (FGA), which is the oldest and 'mother church' of all Pentecostal church movements in Pakistan.

He also works on a church-planting project and for Christian minority rights. Bishop Joseph and Pastor George have both been working on Interfaith Harmony and Peace promotion for the last seven years.

Global Christian Voice says that in order to promote religious harmony, they have been meeting frequently with Muslim religious and political leaders to discuss issues of common interests.

In a meeting on interfaith harmony with Sunni Tehreek in Lahore, in October 2011, the misuse of Pakistan's blasphemy law was also discussed. Apparently, this was not appreciated by Islamic leaders Rana Tahir Advocate, Nasreen Akhtar Advocate, Mohammad Sher Afghan and Moulana Mukhtar Ahmad Qadri.

The Muslim religious leaders, who were also working with them while they were discussing the misuse of blasphemy laws, during an exchange of communications, claimed that Bishop Joseph used some derogatory remarks against the Muslim Holy Prophet Mohhamed.

Global Christian Voice says Bishop Joseph has left his house and is now is in a safe place with his family.

"However, the truth is that Bishop Joseph and Pastor George never made any derogatory remarks against their Prophet and did not make any such remarks or words against any Prophet," Global Christian Voice stated in an e-mail to ASSIST News.

According to sources, the International Peace Council for Interfaith Harmony leader Rana Tahir Rahmat, who is the Chairman of IPCIH, and Mulana Mukhtar Ahmad Qadri Zei the Muslim leader of Ahlae Sunat wa Al Jamat( Suni Terreek) and other groups started blackmailing and harassing Pastor George for carrying out evangelism through Interfaith Harmony and Peace Promotion by uplifting the voice of the Christian community rights in Pakistan.

Bishop Joseph and Pastor George both were working with IPCIH when they decided to start a new organisation for Christian rights and peace promoting. Rana Tahir Rahmat and his group then become angry and planned to destroy and kill both Christian leaders by accusing them of blasphemy.

Bishop Joseph and Pastor George have been reported to be in hiding with their families when Islamic leaders announced the blasphemy case would be filed against them.

Sources in the area say Christian clergymen have been receiving threatening phone calls from Islamic leaders.

"International Christian Voice would like to express its deep concern towards a Pakistani Bishop and Pastor who are under threat of the blasphemy law," said Peter Bhatti, Chairman, International Christian Voice.

"These threats have caused both the bishop and the pastor to flee Pakistan. The misuse of the blasphemy law is getting worse day by day, several Christians and other religious minorities are being targeted in Pakistan," Bhatti said.

He added: "Last week, three Hindu's were also killed in the midst of a dispute between the Hindu community and a Muslim tribe that took place a short time before mediation attempts were due to begin.

"The minorities of Pakistan are equal citizens of Pakistan and they have equal constitutional rights that must be protected."