|Muslims rallying against Qur'an |
burning in Lahore, Pakistan
PAKISTAN (CathNews India) - Church leaders are urging Christians to remain calm after a Muslim tore up a Bible at Lahore Cathedral in retaliation against the burning of a Qur’an by an American pastor.
“Promise me you won’t riot …. Promise you won’t fight. It is another trial for Christianity in Pakistan. Be patient in suffering and follow the passion of Christ,” pleaded Lahore archdiocesan vicar general Father Andrew Nisari during Sunday Mass at Lahore’s Sacred Heart Cathedral.
Christians voiced outrage after Mohammad Akhtar, a Muslim factory worker, tore up a copy of the Bible at the gates of the cathedral on April 8.
Police have charged Akhtar, 30, with blasphemy for “outraging religious feelings.”
“The state will deal with the criminal. Pursing the matter will invite more trouble. However we are deeply concerned with growing anti-Christian sentiments,” said retired Archbishop Lawrence Saldanha of Lahore.
According to the cathedral guards, Akhtar tried entering the Daughters of St. Paul bookshop located on Church premises twice that morning.
“He again appeared during the Stations of the Cross service; took out a book from a plastic bag, tore its pages and threw them in the air shouting he has avenged the Qur’an burning,” said Khalid Perwaiz, one of the four cathedral guards.
He said he would have snatched it if he had known it was a Bible.
Several Christian youths helped the guards apprehend Akhtar and hand him over to police. That same evening, several Christian politicians visited the bishops to organize a protest.
The burning of a Qur’an after a mock trial three weeks ago by a Christian sect in Florida sparked outrage among Muslims. Reports in Pakistan say three churches have been attacked since the Qur’an burning. In neighboring Afghanistan, 24 people, including seven foreign UN workers were killed by protesters.