On the Front Lines of the Culture Wars

A Christian shopowner in Pakistan has died in an apparent reprisal for the death of Osama bin Laden, according to Asia News.

Christian institutions, schools and organizations throughout Pakistan have closed down Wednesday for fear of attacks. The retired Archbishop of Lahore, Lawrence John Saldanha, called for greater protection for Christians, calling them an “easy target.” 

Many Pakistani Christians are worried that the operation by U.S. Special Forces that led to the death of Osama Bin Laden could spark a negative reaction by Muslims against the Christian minority. 

Younas Masih, a Christian shop owner in Faisalabad’s Chak Jhumra district, was shot dead Wednesday, according to Asia News. Two men entered his business to buy cigarettes and shot him in cold blood after an argument broke out.

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Another Christian, also called Younas Masih, died last week in prison from injuries he sustained at the hands of fellow inmates. He had been in prison since 2005 when he was arrested on blasphemy charges. In 2007, he was convicted and sentenced to death. In prison, he has had to endure threats by other prisoners, according to his family.

Following his death, prison authorities denied any responsibility. Father Mark Lucas, a priest in Faisalabad, blamed officials for not stopping inmates who threatened him repeatedly and for allowing them “to reach him.” It also appears that Masih was not provided with proper medical care and died from an excess loss of blood on his way to hospital.

Violence against Pakistani Christians has grown in recent months. The only Christian member of Pakistan’s national cabinet was assassinated after he called for leniency for Aasia Bibi, a mother of five sentenced to death for blasphemy after telling a co-worker “Jesus died for me, what has Mohammed done for you?” A state governor and member of the national parliament who took up her cause was also assassinated after he called for the blasphemy laws to be repealed. 

On Pakistani TV on Tuesday, the extremist group Pakistan Tehrik-e-Taliban dismissed the U.S. operation as a sham, saying that as far as they are concerned Osama is still alive. Retired Pakistan Inter Service Intelligence chief Hameed Gul also cast doubts about the operation and U.S. claims, saying that in the footage shown on TV channels Bin Laden looks too young. Analysts were divided. Some said al-Qaeda will be weakened by Bin Laden’s death. Others feared an escalation in violation in response to the loss.

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