Two female Christian students of Fatima Memorial Hospital’s nursing school in the Pakistani city of Lahore, have been accused of desecrating verses of the Quran, the Muslim holy book, days after their Muslim roommates desecrated a picture of Jesus Christ which they had hung in a shared hostel room, reports Dan Wooding and Sheraz Khurram Khan, special to ASSIST News Service.
ANS has learnt that some days back the Muslim nursing students took a strong exception to the hanging of Jesus’ picture on the wall.
Islamic tradition explicitly prohibits images of Allah, Muhammad and all the major figures of the Christian and Jewish traditions.
Muslim students desecrated the picture by tearing it up and hurling it down after the Christian students refused to remove it voluntarily.
The administration of the Nursing School allegedly took no action against the Muslim students, who committed the alleged profanity.
Christian-Muslim tension among students of the nursing school escalated on Feb. 13 when the Muslim students, who still harbored acrimony against their Christian roommates, accused them of desecrating Quranic verses.
The National Director of Centre for Legal Aid, Assistance and Settlement (CLAAS), Mr. Joseph Francis, and Chief Coordinator of the Sharing Life Ministry Pakistan, Mr. Sohail Johnson, visited scene of the incident after a Christian woman Fouzia informed Sohail by phone about the incident on Saturday morning (Feb. 14).
Talking to ANS by phone, Mr. Sohail Johnson, pointed out a dichotomy between the versions of the Muslim Medical Superintendent, Ayesha Nouman, and the Christian hostel warden, Martha.
In an apparent bid to cover up the matter, Ayesha told the visiting activists that things had returned to normal and the Christian girls who were accused of blasphemy were at the hostel.
Martha, the Christian hostel warden, however, disputed her superior’s version, claiming that the Christian girls accused of blasphemy were not currently staying at the hostel, Sohail told ANS.
“She expressed ignorance about the whereabouts of the nursing students and would not speak any further on the subject for fear of getting into possible trouble herself,” said Sohail Johnson, whose ministry primarily works for Christian prisoners.
ANS further learnt that an “anti-blasphemy” demonstration was staged in front of Iqbal Avenue Hostel near Shaukat Khanum Cancer Memorial Hospital in Lahore on Feb. 13. The demonstrators included Muslim nursing students and people, who were not students of the Nursing School. The angry protesters demanded stringent legal action against the Christian nursing students, one of whom has been identified as Sitar.
Giving out statistics, Sohail said the Fatima Memorial Hospital Nursing School enrolled some 160 nursing students for year 2009.
“I regret that the two Christian students have to face blasphemy accusation. Of course, they managed to get enrolment at the nursing school after a cut-throat competition with Muslim students,” said Sohail Johnson. “The nursing school, Sohail said received some 1400 applications for 2009 session.”
In May 2007, four female Christian Nursing students of Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS) in the capital of Pakistan, Islamabad, were accused of blasphemy. The blasphemy charges were dropped as the committee that was constituted to probe into the blasphemy allegations found the Christian girls innocent.
Sohail Johnson expressed concern over recent abuse of the law by educated people.
He stated, “One could see why ignorant or illiterate people could abuse the law but the misuse of the law by the educated people is a cause of serious concern and has made non-Muslims more vulnerable to the rampant abuse of the law.”
He hailed Christian nurses’ services in the medical sector.
“By implicating Christian nurses in blasphemy cases, it appears some elements want to discourage Christian women from entering medical sector,” he feared. He underscored the need for drawing up a strategy to deal with blasphemy complaints.
Asked how one could expect the police to exercise their duties in an impartial manner while handling blasphemy-accused or blasphemy-related complaints, the human rights activist suggested that workshops should be offered to them (Police) with a view to reform their attitude towards people accused of blasphemy.
“The police often play in the hands of the influential people that also include politicians,” alleged Sohail.
Asked how the international community could influence the Pakistan government to scrap laws perceived as discriminatory by minorities, Sohail Johnson said it could do a number of things. The concerned people, he said, could write letters to the ambassadors of Pakistan in their respective countries.
Report from the Christian Telegraph