Blasphemy Charge Against Sangla Hill Christian Withdrawn

( [email protected] ) Jan 17, 2006 11:28 AM EST

The man who had accused a Sangla Hill Christian of blasphemy has withdrawn the charge, signing a document stating the man's innocence.

Mohammad Saleem Kalu, who accused Yousaf Masih of burning copies of the Quran, said he had accused the Christian on the basis of "mere suspicion," AsiaNews reported. Members of the Christian and Muslim communities signed a "document of peace and reconciliation" on Jan. 7 with the signatures from 20 members of the community – 10 Christian and 10 Muslims, according to the Asia-focused newspaper.

The Pakistan Daily Times newspaper has confirmed the report of the dropped charges and the reconciliation with the Nankana Sahib District Police Officer (DPO) Zulfiqar Hameed.

On Nov. 11, Masih was accused of setting fire to a "Quran Mahal," a storage room for old copies of the Quran that lead to the Sangla Hill Christian’s arrest the same night.

The following day, the blasphemy charge against the semi-illiterate agricultural laborer sparked a massive attack on Christians in Pakistan when some 2,000 Muslims attacked the mainly Christian village of Sangla Hill on Nov. 12. According to AsiaNews, the mob destroyed three Christian churches, a convent, two Catholic schools, and the homes of a Protestant pastor and a Catholic parish priest, a girls’ hostel and homes of Christians.

Following the Sangla Hill incident, about 3,000 Muslims gathered for Friday prayer on Dec. 2 and urged Muslims to rise up and eliminate Christians – including the public hanging of Masih.

Christians and Muslim human rights advocates responded to the attack by joining together on Jan. 1 to demonstrate against the government’s inaction.

According to Daily Times, news later emerged that the accusations were made by Muslims who owed Masih gambling money.

The newspaper also noted that the men accused of attacking the churches and other Christian properties were not arrested.