Church Screening of ‘Jesus Film’ Attacked in Pakistan

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Adrienne S. Gaines


Some 50 Muslim
villagers armed with clubs and axes attacked a showing of the Jesus Film near Sargodha,
Pakistan, on Wednesday night, injuring three
part-time evangelists and four Christians in attendance.

Two of the
evangelists were said to be seriously injured. The Muslim hardliners also
damaged a movie projector, burned reels of the film and absconded with the
public address system and donations from Christian viewers in Chak village,
about 10 kilometers northeast of Sargodha, at 7 p.m.

Officers at the
Saddr police station refused to register a case against the Muslim assailants,
sources said.

observed three part-time
evangelists—Ishtiaq Bhatti, Imtiaz Ghauri and Kaleem Ghulam—screening the
film within the premises of the Catholic Church of Chak, which sits within the
police precincts of Saddr police station-Sargodha. Bhatti said the church
compound was crammed with Christian villagers clapping as the film showed Jesus
Christ performing miracles, raising the dead, casting out evil spirits and
healing ailments.

Christians were taken to the Basic Health Unit (BHU) of Chak village. Bhatti was
treated for minor injuries, while Ghauri and Ghulam sustained serious injuries
for which they received treatment at another hospital.

The evangelists
who were screening the film said from their clinic beds that a Muslim cleric
instigated the Muslim villagers, who were armed with clubs, spades and

“They charged on
us deadly and swiftly and left us injured and broke all our appliances and took
away funds collected by congregants to help us,” Bhatti said. “Muslim men also
injured those Christian villagers who tried to intervene and stop them.”

The intervention
of Chaudhary Nassar-Ullah Cheema, headman of the village, resulted in the rescue
of the Christian evangelists and the surrender of the Muslim mob, sources told
Compass. The Muslim hardliners were forced to evacuate the church grounds, but
only after a stand-off of nearly two hours.

Eyewitnesses who
requested anonymity told Compass that numerous
Muslim villagers and their clerics had gathered outside the church compound as
the film played, with some of them climbing trees to get a clearer view of the
screen. The eyewitnesses said that as soon as the Muslim attackers watched the
resurrection and ascension of Christ, they became enraged because their version
of Islam forbids portraying an image of a living thing and especially that of a

The sources
added that although Muslims hold Christ as a prophet, they believe he was never
crucified, having been replaced by a man identical to him.

No doctor was
initially available for the four injured Christian viewers and three preachers
who were taken to the BHU of Chak, but a male nurse treated their wounds and
allowed them to go home. Ghauri and Ghulam sustained critical injuries and were
transferred to District Headquarters Hospital in Sargodha.

Asad Masih, a
local Christian leader, told Compass that they tried to register a case against
Muslim villagers for thrashing (Article 337 of the Pakistan Penal Code) stealing
(Article 380), recovery of the stolen items (411) and desecrating the church
building, but police scornfully rejected their application. Officers
peremptorily told them to settle the dispute in a local jury of village elders,
he said.

Inspector Azeem
Warriach of Saddr police station told Compass that registration of a case
against a large number of Muslim villagers would further create a break-down of
law and order.

“Therefore, I’ve
directed them to solve the problem at the local level so that they might
reconcile and live in perfect peace and harmony,” he said.

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