COVID virus fragments have been detected in sewage in my area. What does that mean and what should I do?


Cobus Gerber, University of South AustraliaIf you’ve heard COVID-19 virus fragments have been detected in sewage in your area, you might be wondering: does that mean someone in my suburb has COVID-19? What should I do?

Firstly, the most important thing to do is follow your state health department’s advice.

Fragments of the virus that causes COVID-19 were found in the Allambie Heights sewage network in Sydney, via samples taken on April 22 and April 26. Fragments were also detected in the Marrickville sewage network (via a sample taken May 3).

According to NSW Health, people in those areas should monitor for symptoms and “if you have even the mildest of symptoms (even if it appears to be a cold), get tested and self-isolate immediately.”

Viral fragments were also recently detected in Melbourne sewage.

But when it comes to wastewater monitoring for COVID-19, there’s a lot of probability involved. It doesn’t necessarily mean someone in your suburb definitely has COVID.

Here’s how to put the news into context.

Read more:
Sewage testing is no magic bullet in our fight against COVID-19. But it can help

There’s a risk of a false positive

Remember, it is possible for testing to produce a false positive. The test itself can produce a wrong result and detect virus fragments when in fact there were none.

Or, it could be detecting virus fragments from a person who was infected in the past and was in hotel quarantine but is now out in the community and no longer infectious. They may just be shedding virus fragments, even though they no longer pose a risk.

It could be someone who passed through

There’s also another way to think about it: it’s possible a person from a completely different area came through your suburb, stopped at a cafe or at someone’s house, used the toilet and excreted fragments of the virus into the catchment. Then they went back home to their own suburb.

If virus fragments are showing up in just one or two samples, there is no way to know for sure if it’s a local resident who excreted it or if it was someone passing through.

If it happens on a daily basis via samples taken over many days, however, then it is more likely to be a local person.

A negative result could be wrong, too

Wastewater testing isn’t perfect. Just because COVID fragments have not shown up in samples from your suburb, it does not mean for sure your suburb is entirely COVID-free, either.

In fact, negatives are more likely than false positives. It’s possible the infectious rate in that area is so low it falls below the limit of the detection method.

The sampling method, in most cases, is not continuous so there’s always a chance a flush of a sample by an infected person was not detected because there was no sampling taking place at that moment. It’s all about probability.

Fragments, not whole virus

Usually, when a positive result is recorded it means fragments of virus have been detected. A viable, active virus is not excreted, to a large extent, in faecal material. When it is, it has a very short life span. Usually what is detected is RNA fragments characteristic of the SARS-COV-2 virus. The risk of catching COVID from sewage is relatively low. The main risk is from from sharing a surface or being in a confined space with an infected person.

A man washes hands.
Be ultra careful about sharing surfaces, physical distancing, wearing a mask, washing hands and using hand sanitiser.

Be alert but not alarmed

A lot of people think that if virus was detected in a certain sewage network then it must mean someone in that community has COVID. That is possible; but it may also turn out not to be the case.

If COVID virus fragments were detected in the wastewater in my area, I would be alert for symptoms and I would also take necessary precautions. I’d be ultra careful about sharing surfaces, physical distancing, wearing a mask and using hand sanitiser.

It may be nothing but, at the same time, I would just follow the health advice.

As I have argued in previous articles on The Conversation, sewage testing is no magic bullet in our fight against COVID-19, but it can offer helpful clues.

Read more:
Flushing is our next weapon against COVID-19, if you’re happy to have your sewage scrutinised

The Conversation

Cobus Gerber, Associate Professor, University of South Australia

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Sewage testing is no magic bullet in our fight against COVID-19. But it can help


Cobus Gerber, University of South Australia and Rietie Venter, University of South Australia

We’re often hearing alerts for different areas after traces of coronavirus are found in the wastewater, or sewage.

Most recently, fragments were detected at Benalla, in Victoria’s north, and at Portland, not far from the South Australian border. The Victorian government subsequently closed the border to South Australia, and urged anyone in these areas to get tested if they developed symptoms.

The idea of testing sewage to track the presence of a virus is not new. Scientists in Israel used it to monitor a polio outbreak in 2013.

While it is a useful tool for COVID-19 disease surveillance, it’s not entirely foolproof.

From drug use to COVID-19

We commonly use wastewater monitoring to estimate levels of illicit drug use in Australia. This is the sort of work our teams do, although this year we shifted our focus to look at methods of testing wastewater for COVID-19.

A virus monitoring program uses the same principle as wastewater monitoring for drugs. Microbes such as SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, are passed mainly through a person’s gut, then come out in their stool, and enter the sewerage system after a toilet flush.

This process, called viral shedding, depends on the severity of the infection (generally, people who have a more severe infection shed more of the virus, though this isn’t always the case) and can occur for several weeks after symptoms have disappeared.

Although the virus doesn’t stay viable in the sewage for very long — you’re not likely to catch it if you come into contact with sewage containing virus — remnants of its genetic material may remain intact. When a daily sample is collected at a treatment plant, we can recover the RNA fragments.

Some research groups have suggested this approach may be able to detect a single
infected person in a catchment of 100,000.

Wastewater samples in a laboratory.
Wastewater testing is being used in many places around the world during the pandemic, not only Australia.

The technique is important

A variety of techniques can be used to recover the genetic material before we measure how much virus is present. The more virus there is in a sample, the easier it is to detect.

Currently, there are no agreed standard approaches — different teams testing wastewater for COVID in different places do it differently.

This is partly because we’re still working out the best method — each has its own strengths. Our research, currently under review, shows a method may be very sensitive in some cases but not in others.

Wastewater from a suburban area may contain mainly household effluent, whereas a sample from a more industrial area could contain various chemicals that may interfere with detecting the viral RNA. Wastewater is not homogeneous and its contents can even vary depending on the time of day.

We’re working on developing more robust methods that are less prone to being influenced by the wastewater source. In the meantime, we need to be a bit cautious when interpreting results from wastewater testing.

Read more:
Diarrhoea, stomach ache and nausea: the many ways COVID-19 can affect your gut

What happens when a sample is positive?

Once traces of SARS-CoV-2 show up in wastewater, it’s a likely indication that infected people live in, or have visited, the sewer catchment. However, it’s important that more than one indicator confirming virus RNA is included in the tests to minimise the risk of false positives.

Even then, a result may simply be a case of people who are recovering from illness, shedding virus after they’ve completed their quarantine, when they will no longer be infectious.

It’s important to carry out ongoing surveillance to determine if the signal peters out, or if the level of virus detected at the location increases. The latter would suggest an underlying spread of infections, and the need to step up targeted testing. This is arguably the strength of wastewater surveillance.

Conversely, when the results are negative, it may imply there are no infected people in the catchment. However, this could also mean the testing method is insufficiently sensitive to pick up infections. It’s possible infected people are located far from the sampling point, and no identifiable virus remnants remain in the sample by the time it’s collected.

There’s also the issue that many people in regional areas have their own septic tanks.

So like testing people for COVID, wastewater testing carries a risk of both false positives and false negatives.

Read more:
Flushing is our next weapon against COVID-19, if you’re happy to have your sewage scrutinised

There are strengths and weaknesses

Sewage surveillance can’t give us specific information, such as the location of the infected people or the number of infections. But as long as we understand its strengths and weaknesses, it’s a valuable complementary approach to guide targeted testing.

It can provide authorities with evidence that may inform whether they can relax restrictions in some communities, instead of applying blanket lockdowns. If we had COVID wastewater monitoring across South Australia (currently it’s only operating in Adelaide), it might have been able to indicate there were no cases in regional areas, and perhaps they could have avoided this week’s harsh lockdown.

With so much uncertainty about when and where the next outbreak might occur, monitoring wastewater could provide an early warning signal.

People in Benalla in Portland should be aware and get tested if they have any symptoms, according to public health advice. But at this stage, there’s no need for alarm.

Read more:
South Australia’s COVID outbreak: what we know so far, and what needs to happen next

The Conversation

Cobus Gerber, Associate Professor, University of South Australia and Rietie Venter, Associate professor, Clinical and Health Sciences, University of South Australia

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Flushing is our next weapon against COVID-19, if you’re happy to have your sewage scrutinised

Anna Kosovac, University of Melbourne; Erin O’Donnell, University of Melbourne, and Stuart Khan, UNSW

We may have a surprising new ally in the bid to contain the COVID-19 outbreak: your sewage.

Australia’s government recently announced that sewage is to be tested for SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. Federal health minister Greg Hunt explained this will be a key part of the monitoring program that will need to be in place to guard against future local outbreaks of the virus.

Researchers in the Netherlands, France, the United States and Australia have been testing sewage for SARS-CoV-2 for more than a month, and have generally reported that the rise and fall of their results reflect the officially reported local rates of infection with COVID-19.

This suggests sewage can indeed be used to monitor the future spread of the virus. And with many infections thought to be symptomless, this means we can potentially detect cases that might evade other monitoring programs.

Read more:
We don’t know for sure if coronavirus can spread through poo, but it’s possible

The testing for SARS-CoV-2 in sewage doesn’t detect the virus itself, but just a very small fragment (about 0.1%) of the virus’s genetic material, called RNA. This means it cannot tell whether the water contains infectious virus particles or just a few pieces of leftover RNA from inactivated or decomposed viruses.

This type of waste tracking is not new. It has already been used in Australia to track viruses such as norovirus. And since 2017, sewage testing has been used to uncover evidence of illicit drug use at the population level. Drug-testing sewage has helped police and other authorities discover what drugs are used in particular cities, and even to track down illicit drug labs.

The newer aspect is the proposal to use sewage monitoring in the context of a major pandemic, and potentially to rely on the data to inform some very high-stakes decisions. This introduces a high burden of responsibility to ensure that the data are collected by reliable means, with well understood rates of false results, both positive and negative.

If major decisions are to be based on measured concentrations, it will be essential to understand all the factors behind these measurements.

If sewage tests positive, what next?

While technically possible, sewage testing from individual properties is unlikely to be cost-effective. But it might potentially be used to sample wastewater from large buildings, hospitals or even ships or aircraft.

It will be important to understand how we would respond to positive results for SARS-CoV-2. Locking down a building or cruise ship might require isolation for everyone involved. Alternatively, a positive result could be used as a trigger for individual testing of those people who may have contributed to the positive sewage sample. In any case, the impacts to individuals will be sufficient to warrant a high reliability for sewage testing.

Read more:
We don’t know for sure if coronavirus can spread through poo, but it’s possible

Meanwhile, how confident can we be about sewage that tests negative for SARS-CoV-2? Do we properly understand the likelihood of missing what could have been a positive result? Would there be liability placed on the testing authorities, governments, or others in the case of false negatives leading to missed opportunities for virus containment?

We will also need to understand the trends that may be observed in terms of increasing and decreasing concentrations of SARS-CoV-2 in sewage. While we may assume these accurately reflect changing patterns of infection, other factors such as rainfall and sampling variability could significantly influence the measured concentrations.

Of course, direct clinical testing of patients is also subject to many types of errors, and there are protocols in place for how we respond. But sewage testing would likely have higher degrees of uncertainty and greater numbers of people directly affected by the responses.

The issue is thus far less straightforward than it might appear on first reflection. That means it deserves a similar level of scrutiny as the government’s planned contact tracing mobile phone app, which has prompted significant privacy concerns.

Read more:
Coronavirus contact-tracing apps: most of us won’t cooperate unless everyone does

A human right to flush without self-incrimination?

If coronavirus testing is to be used to dictate specific actions or responses from public health officials under emergency orders, it raises questions that have not yet been addressed in Australia’s drug testing.

A testing regime that delivers information on the scale that would be most useful for public health would create challenges for human rights. The human right to water is recognised under international law, and includes the right to safe and accessible sanitation. If sewage testing is used to support sanctions in the form of lockdowns, this may erode our basic right to access sanitation.

This kind of testing also poses challenges for public water authorities, which must comply with the Information Privacy Principles.

We may also wonder where our own “rights” to our waste end. In Australia, household garbage remains the legal property of the householder while on their private property, but belongs to the garbage collection agency (usually a local government) once collected. Is this an appropriate model for bodily waste?

Australia’s legal frameworks around sewage collection, treatment and management have struggled to keep pace with developments in sewer mining, stormwater reuse and water recycling.

It might seem strange to ponder the ethics of what people flush down the toilet. But given the personal details that sewage can reveal – everything from diseases and pollutants to drug and alcohol use – we need a national framework to ensure the technology does not go unchecked.The Conversation

Anna Kosovac, Research Fellow in International Urban Politics, University of Melbourne; Erin O’Donnell, Early Career Academic Fellow, Centre for Resources, Energy and Environment Law, University of Melbourne, and Stuart Khan, Professor of Civil & Environmental Engineering, UNSW

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Police in Pakistan Shoot Mourners at Funeral of Christian

Authorities allegedly kill young man in custody on contrived charge of desecrating Quran.

LAHORE, Pakistan, September 17 (CDN) — At a funeral for a Christian man allegedly tortured to death while in custody on a spurious charge of blaspheming the Quran, police in Sialkot, Pakistan yesterday fired on mourners trying to move the coffin to another site.

Area Christians suspect police killed 22-year-old Robert Danish, nicknamed “Fanish” or “Falish” by friends, by torturing him to death on Tuesday (Sept. 15) after the mother of his Muslim girlfriend contrived a charge against him of desecrating Islam’s scripture. The allegation led to calls from mosque loudspeakers to punish Christians, prompting an Islamic mob to attack a church building in Jathikai village on Friday (Sept. 11) and beat several of the 30 families forced to flee their homes.

Jathikai was Danish’s native village, and some family members and other Christians wished to transfer his coffin to his hometown. Eyewitnesses at the funeral in Christian Town, Sialkot, said police fired shots directly at the Christians, injuring three, when mourners began to move the coffin toward nearby Jathikai. Mourners fled.

Sialkot is 125 kilometers (78 miles) northwest of Lahore in Punjab Province.

Controversy swirled around the cause of Danish’s death, with Christians refusing to accept police claims that he committed suicide. Results of forensic tests are expected within a week.

The dark moment for Danish’s family grew gloomier yesterday when police seemed to be seeking the first excuse for heavy-handed tactics at the funeral attended by hundreds of people, Christian sources said. When the family and other Christians tried to take the coffin to his hometown of Jathikai, police fired on them, charged them with batons and snatched the body from them, Christian sources said. 

Eyewitness Sajawal Masih told Compass that as soon as mourners lifted the coffin, police began firing tear gas.

“We were running when police opened fire and one bullet went through my foot, and two others also were injured,” he said.

There were reports of Christian youths pelting officers with stones, and police reportedly said that they needed to rush the crowd and make arrests to prevent “further disturbances.”

On Tuesday night (Sept. 15), Danish’s survivors and other Christians had decided that the body would be buried in Christian Town because of the dangers of potential attack in Jathikai, according to Christian Town Councilor Tanveer Saqib. Saqib said that the funeral was to be held at 10 a.m. on Wednesday (Sept. 16) at the Christian Technical Institute (CTI) Ground in Christian Town, Sialkot city.

Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) Member of National Assembly (MNA) Akram Gill said that when he and several youths took the body from the CTI Ground and began heading toward Jathikai village, police began firing. Gill told Compass that police opened fire on them as well as the crowd, injuring three Christians.

Gill, a Christian, added that police also shot tear gas, and that officers arrested about 100 Christians. The national assembly member said police arrested him and took Danish’s body to the Christian Town Graveyard in Sialkot. In spite of the tear gas, Gill said, he and others went to the graveyard but encountered armed police who also fired tear gas, turning them back.

For three hours, Gill said, Criminal Investigation Department police detained him, and although he was released, police arrested PML-Q Member of Provincial Assembly (MPA) Shehzad Elahi and his whereabouts were still unknown. He said that whenever Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) members come into power in the province, problems for Christians multiply.

Cause of Death

How Danish died remained unclear. Allama Iqbal Hospital Deputy Medical Superintendent Sajid Hussein told Compass that on Danish’s body there was a large welt on the back of the neck and “marks on the legs and back.” He said it was too soon to determine cause of death but that police had pronounced it a suicide.

Tissues taken from the body have been sent to Lahore for chemical and histopathology tests. He said these tests would indicate how the wounds were made, including whether they were inflicted after death.

“The report of these tests would come within a week, and I would inform the media of its findings,” he said. “I cannot comment on whether he committed suicide or not, as the matter is before the court.”

There were unconfirmed reports that state officials were pressuring doctors at Allama Iqbal Hospital to declare Danish’s death a suicide; Hussein denied these statements, telling Compass that they were “mere rumors.”

Hussein said that two Christian doctors, one from Bethania Hospital and the medical superintendent of Jalalpur Jattan Mission Hospital, were allowed to observe the autopsy. Christian Town Councilor Tanveer Saqib said that after the autopsy, the two Christian doctors came out and told media in front of thousands of Christians that Danish had been tortured to death.

Saqib said Danish’s father received the body and, accompanied by thousands of Christians, took it to Baithania Mission Hospital. The procession was so big that it took nearly four hours, though the route was not far.

Over the weekend Danish’s father had been unduly arrested, and upon his release a station house officer told Danish’s uncle, Saleem Masih, that even though Danish’s father was being released, Danish never would be. Saleem Masih told Compass that Danish’s father went back to his jailed son and told him, “My son, we have been trying our best to save you, but it doesn’t seem we will succeed. I think it is the last time I’m seeing you, so I commit you in the Lord’s hands.”

Councilor Saqib said that a Christian constable posted at the Sialkot District Jail told him that he saw Danish in the jail at around 7 a.m. and that he appeared unharmed. At about 10 a.m., however, jail administrators called important figures in the Christian community and told them that Danish had committed suicide, Saqib said.

Danish’s body was taken to a trauma center for a CT scan, he said, then to Riffat Idrees Hospital for an MRI.

“Along with the body were two Christian doctors – Dr. Tariq Malik and Dr. Qammar Sohail – and we were confident that they would tell the facts,” he said, adding that Malik had all medical reports of these tests.

The Punjab provincial government has ordered an investigation into the death, and three prison officials have reportedly been suspended.

Tragic Love

A paternal cousin of Danish identified only as Parveen confirmed reports that the conflict grew out of a romantic relationship between Danish and Hina Asghar, a young Muslim woman. She said Danish and Asghar were neighbors and had been seeing each other for three or four years.

On the night of Sept. 10, Parveen told Compass, Danish and Asghar met on the roof, angering the young Muslim’s mother. Early the next morning, Asghar’s mother spoke of the affair with the wife of local Muslim cleric identified only as Amanullah; the cleric’s wife in turn warned Asghar that both she and Danish could lose their lives if the relationship continued, Parveen said.

When Danish met Asghar on the road the next morning, Parveen said, the young Muslim woman refused to talk to him but tried to hand him a letter explaining the warning she had received. Upset, Danish batted her hand away as she was trying to give him the letter.

“Because he pushed her hand with a jerk, supara 21 [a section of the Quran larger than a sura, or chapter] fell from her hand and dropped onto a nearby sewage stream and got smeared with garbage,” Parveen said.

Saleem Masih, Danish’s uncle, questions that what fell from Asghar’s hand was a part of the Quran. He told Compass that Asghar was trying to give Danish a green-colored diary that only looked like the similarly green-covered section of the Quran. After the rumor began circulating that Danish had blasphemed the Quran, Saleem Masih said, Danish told his mother that it was not the Quran but a green diary that Asghar was trying to give him which fell.

According to Parveen, Asghar returned home and began cleaning the recovered scripture part, and her mother asked how it became sullied, Parveen said. Asghar’s mother subsequently rushed to cleric Amanullah’s wife, who then told her husband about the incident.

Saleem Masih told Compass that he and his wife, along with Danish’s parents, went to Hina Asghar’s father, Asghar Ali, bowed before him and pleaded for him to stop the false rumors of desecration of the Quran. He responded that Muslim cleric Amanullah would decide on it after the Friday prayers, and that the matter was not in their hands anymore.

On that day, Sept. 11, at about 11 a.m., the Muslim cleric announced during the Friday prayer that a Christian had blasphemed by desecrating the Quran, Parveen said.

Islamic mobs brandishing sticks were already arriving in the village, shouting against Danish and demanding that he be hung to death. They also occupied a house that he owned. Surrounding families fled their homes, leaving domestic animals without food and water.

Relatives Thrashed

Nadeem Masih, a paternal cousin of Danish, said that when he arrived at the village by motorbike that day, a large number of emotionally charged Muslims were setting Calvary Church on fire.

He said several Muslims had surrounded Danish’s father, Riasat Masih, and that he managed to get his uncle onto his motorbike to try to escape. They sped through several mob attempts to stop them and were eventually pursued by two Muslims on motorcycles. As Nadeem and Riasat Masih entered the main road, their motorbike slid and fell as they barely avoided an approaching truck. Nadeem Masih escaped but his uncle, Danish’s father, was captured.

Saleem Masih said that the Muslim mob took hold of Danish’s father, tied him up and were about to set him on fire when elderly men intervened, saying punishment for that crime would be too great, and suggested they instead only beat him. After beating Danish’s father, the Muslim mob untied him and took him into the church, where they burned Bibles, hymn books and other items and continued beating him.

Christian sources said police arrived and arrested Riasat Masih – not his attackers – and took him to the police station. Riasat Masih filed a crime report against the jailor and police officials at the Civil Lines Police Station, according to Christian Town Councilor Saqib.

Saleem Masih told Compass that he also was beaten. He said he was with Calvary Church Senior Pastor Dilshad Masih when they arrived in the village to find the mob setting church articles on fire and striking it with whatever they could find on hand. Realizing he could do nothing, Saleem Masih said he ran to his farmhouse, also owned by a Muslim named Bao Munir.

Munir took hold of him, he said.

“He brought out my cot and other belongings and set them on fire, and then he also tried to burn me in this fire,” Saleem Masih said.

Munir told him he could either be burned or go with him back to the village, and he forced all of the Christian’s clothes off of him except a cloth covering his loins and burned them, Saleem Masih said. After some struggle, he said, he managed to escape.

Danish, meantime, was hiding in a house in Jathikai village but was arrested the next morning (Sept. 12) when he went out for drinking water.

Tensions escalated, a source told Compass, when cleric Sabir Ali announced from his mosque in nearby Bhopalwala village that a Christian boy had blasphemed Islam by throwing the Quran in a drain.

Church Fire

After Calvary Church was set on fire, about 30 nearby families fled from the brutal beatings. Eyewitnesses told Compass that the assailants first went to Danish’s house. Not finding anyone there, they attacked the locked church which was only three houses from his.

The eyewitnesses, who were still in hiding and fearing further attacks, said that the assailants burned Bibles and hymnbooks. The assailants brought the church cross out, they said, and beat it with their shoes. The sources said the attackers were mainly from Shabab-e-Milli, a wing of the Muslim extremist Jamaat-e-Islami.

Christian Town Councilor Saqib said that the mob got hold of Calvary Church Senior Pastor Masih and severely beat him while police stood by. Police kept Saqib and his team from going to the blazing Calvary Church building, signaling them from afar not to come near, he said. He added that they had to turn back as the rampaging Muslims turned on them to attack, which police made no effort to stop. 

Pastor Masih told Compass that when he and Saleem Masih arrived at the church building, Muslims shouted at them, “Catch these Christians!” He remained standing as others fled, he said, and the mob beat him and took his mobile phone.

“They wanted to kill me, but miraculously I managed to run from there,” he said.

Saqib said MPA Kamran Michael of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PLM-N), the ruling party in Punjab province, reached the village on Friday, but police did not allow him to go to the burning church, citing security threats. About 500 Christians later gathered in Sialkot to protest the church fire, with Michael addressing the crowd.

Michael said that one of the protestors reminded him that after Islamic mobs burned homes in Gojra last month, he had vowed to resign if further attacks took place. The crowd then began demanding that he resign, and police opened fire and charged the crowd with batons. He added that throughout the incident there were several media vans, but none of the major television stations covered the protest.

Several Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and Christian media also faced difficulties in getting in the village, though in all previous incidents media and NGOs were allowed access. In this case, however, police told them that they were not allowed due to security reasons. Also unable to gain access to Jathikai was Pakistan People’s Party provincial Assembly Member Amna Buttar and minority rights groups.

George and Butta Masih, along with four family members, were in Jathikai tending to their five cows on Sunday (Sept. 13). George Masih told a Compass reporter who had somehow got into the village that they stayed home all day and went out only at night to bring some fodder for the animals. They said that Muslims would beat any Christians seen during the day.

On Sunday about 500 to 700 Muslim women staged a protest in Sialkot to refute the notion that a Muslim woman could fall in love with a Christian man.

Several Christian and secular organizations in Lahore have scheduled a candle-light vigil today (Sept. 17) as a memorial for Danish and other members of Pakistan’s minority communities who have been killed or attacked in Islamist attacks.

A field officer for advocacy group Community Development Initiative, Napoleon Qayyum, said such attacks were weakening the Christian community. 

“After the Gojra incident, several Christians said that their Muslim employers had told them not to come to work anymore,” Qayyum said. “This economic dependence further plays part in seeking justice.” 

He added that in the June 30 Islamist attack on Bahmaniwala, in Kasur district, Christians did not want to pursue justice as they worked on Muslims’ land and could not afford confrontation.

“Their fear is that they would be left without jobs,” he said. “Due to economic dependence and poor status, Christians neither pursue their cases, nor do they defend themselves in such instances.”

Report from Compass Direct News