The fanatics who have killed their own daughter, can easily kill SK and her family. She has become so desperate that she once sprinkled kerosene on her clothes and was ready to burn herself. The Pastor phoned to dissuade her from suicide. He advised her from Canada to have faith in God who will find a way to get her out. When SK was in custody, police forced the pastor to touch her private parts. When he refused, they hit the pastor. He remembers the evening when he saw her tied to a tree in the front of the house of those Muslims. She was crying. While recounting those tortures, the pastor often got lost somewhere, perhaps thinking of their past and rescue. She was in police custody for about ten months. Here women are often abused. There are several reports including the reports of human rights groups, about abuses of women in police custody. Women from minority groups are more vulnerable. The women who have been implicated in the blasphemy laws are even more vulnerable. SK suffers from nightmares and expects any time to be killed. She is not normal anymore. She must be about twenty-four years old in 2003. She was attending a college with RM for a university degree before the days of her persecution. Her formal education has gone and so are her dreams. She often gets up in the night from her sleep and shouts as if there were bearded men around to rape her. She depends on others for finances. Who would marry her in that plight? She has no future in that nation. Even her parents and brother and sisters suffer. They are also under constant fear. There is no freedom for them. The land where they were born and where their ancestors have been buried has become an open prison for them. The church and home of Rev. Arthur in Pakistan have been illegally possessed by a group of zealots. All the signs and boards of the church have gone. His relatives have been attacked. They are also living in hiding. Whenever he meets a person, he asks to find ways to help SK. He has written several letters to the government of Pakistan without any result. Pakistan is a nation that is beset with the clouds of bribery and religious bigotry at every level of government. The Government of Pakistan is silent. So is the Government of Canada. Churches are silent. So is humanity. On July 1, 2003, I wrote a letter to the President of Pakistan, General Pervez Musharraf, to support the petition Rev. Arthur made to him on December 12 of 2002. The petition was to regain the property of his church from a Muslim group that had grabbed the property forcefully. I mentioned in my letter that Rev. Arthur was the church minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in Shahdra, Lahore. Part of this location was the residence of pastor Arthur and his family. He inherited this property from his ancestors who had lived in the land long before Pakistan came into existence and that his ancestors did not come from abroad as several Pakistanis have. I added in that letter that Rev. Arthur had to flee that land of his ancestors because of his persecution for performing his duties as a pastor. The magnitude of his agonies began to mount when a Muslim girl, RM, was brought to him by SK, a member of his congregation, for additional understanding of Jesus. The parents and relatives of RM got hold of Rev. Arthur and tortured him and later they handed him to police who tortured him further, breaking some of his ribs. Rev. Arthur and his family took refuge in Canada. The 80-year-old mother-in-law of Rev. Arthur looked after the property for a while, living with her son and family in the house that is attached to the church. When the group of Muhammad Bashir Joya tried to kill her son, they had to hide out of the village for the protection of their lives and also of his family. The group threatened to kill the brother-in law of Rev. Arthur.
On April 18 in 2001, Rev. Arthur phoned Muhammad Bashir Joya and his son Muhammad Jahangir from Canada to request them to give the church back to his congregation. Both were rude and used threatening language, refusing to give the church back. Later Muhammad Bashir Joya and his group tried to kill the brother-in-law of Rev. Arthur. He was able to escape with one wound on his ankle from a gunshot. Terrified, he is hiding himself moving from place to place. The congregation was silenced with threats. Rev. Arthur mailed copies of his petition to several government authorities in Pakistan, including the Deputy Superintendent of Police of Ferozwala Circuit and Superintendent of Police of District Sheikhupura of Panjab for action. But nothing happened. On October 3, 2001, he sent a letter to Mr. Iftikhar A. Irain, Consulate General of Pakistan in Toronto, asking for his assistance to receive his church and dwelling back. Nothing happened again. The lives of his relatives and congregation in Pakistan remain in danger and the church is still under the illegal possession of Muhammad Bashir Joya and his son Muhammad Jahangir. The members of the church meet for prayers in private houses under the constant fear from Muhammad Bashir Joya and his group.
This incident of grabbing the property of a church is not the first nor the last. One weapon that land grabbers use is the sword of the blasphemy laws. One example where they have used this weapon is Ayub Masih who languished in a death cell for years. He is alleged to have told his accuser to read Solomon Rushdie. The day a case was registered against Ayub Masih for this flimsy fabricated reason, Christian families from that village ran to other places to save their lives. Ayub Masih was arrested, tortured by the police and the home and belongings of the family were transferred to his accuser. Years later, a defence attorney told Pakistan Supreme Court that Ayub Masih was a victim of a plot to grab his land. The court agreed and ordered Masih to be released.
The tragic episode of Rev. Arthur reveals another book of shame in the library of torture of Christians in Pakistan. The first chapter in this book of shame was RM, that young Muslim girl who has lost her life in the hands of her real brother. This tragedy was acted on the stage of the blasphemy laws that sharpen the sword of terrorism.
The blasphemy laws of Pakistan, claim to be based on the Islamic creed, prescribe a sentence of a few months and a fine of a few thousand rupees for those who blaspheme against God. But these laws prescribe death by hanging to those who blaspheme against Prophet Mohammed. There is no other sentence for them, except a death sentence. For fanatics, apostasy is an insult to Prophet Mohammed and therefore an apostate is sentenced to death if the matter goes to court. In most cases, the apostate goes through a long line of tortures, losing his or her life at the hands of the mob or relatives, including parents. Several leaders of Pakistan, including a high court judge, have encouraged people to kill blasphemers on the spot. The death of RM is an outcome of these laws. RM met her tragic end because she expressed her right to accept a path that was different from the path of her parents and of the majority class. Her right was denied to her through a drastic action that blew out the candle of her life. RM, an enlightened Muslim student of second year in a college, was kept under lock and key by her parents when they came to know that she had accepted Christ. Somehow she managed to escape. A couple of days after that RM was found and killed by her older brother for changing her path. The tragic episode does not end here. RM was introduced to Christ by her girl friend SK who was her classmate at a local college and a member of the congregation of Rev. Arthur. The parents and relatives of RM dragged the parents and sister of SK to the front of the yard of a house, chained and tortured them, keeping them hungry and thirsty in scorching heat of June when the sun shines with its full fury. There was no one around to help those defenceless souls. Later SK, the Christian girl of around twenty two years old, was handed to police who badly abused her sexually. Due to hopelessness and inhuman treatment, she has become a vegetable.
What is the crime of SK to be abused sexually by police officers? Why some wolves had to damage the flower of her youth for their lust ? Why she had to be disgraced and bring misery to her parents for sharing her beliefs with others? Is self-expression a crime? Does she deserve this destiny? She is still in hiding and her abusers are free to damage the nerves of other flowers? The Canadian Government has been refusing to issue her a visa though a church is willing to sponsor her. This conversion has made one young soul dead and another young soul a living dead. The Arthurs left their homeland with the help of Christians abroad to lead a fresh life on a fresh soil with fresh hopes, while their relatives and congregation back in Pakistan wander as lost sheep in the wasteland of chaos and fear.
Why the whole family of Rev. Arthur had to suffer for a belief that is based on peace and forgiveness? Why police had to break his ribs, and torture his children? The Arthurs are not completely healed physically and emotionally and they are not likely to heal. Is there a compensation for the wounds they yet carry? What is the fault of Rev. Arthur? Why he had been beaten and wounded for discharging his duties as a pastor in the light of the constitution of humanity and in conformity with the human rights declaration of the United Nations? He was not breaking the laws of decency or the laws of a country. Why his congregation has to lose their church and their properties in Pakistan to the greed of the evil birds? Why the laws of Pakistan are in favour of majority? Why the governments of Pakistan are afraid of these land grabbers? Why the Arthurs had to run away in panic from the land where they were born and brought up and where the bones of their ancestors are still buried and the land they love so dearly? Why a pastor was treated as a criminal for sharing the philosophy of unconditional love, the ideology of nonviolence and for discarding the culture of the gun. The Muslim girl RM was still a citizen of Pakistan when she was brutally murdered by the hands that rocked her cradle. She still ate the same food, spoke the same language and had the same physical features when she accepted Christ. The only difference was within herself. She achieved a greater peace within her because she got what she sought. Is it loathsome to achieve a greater amount of peace within? What the Arthurs should do is a question? What is the crime of the entire congregation of that church who has lost the place of worship to a gang of zealots? The possession of a church property illegally and by force can be described through the vocabulary of terrorism. The entire tragedy is a flagrant violation of international human rights and a breach of obligations that Pakistan owes to the international community. By encouraging such outlaws, the government of Pakistan has encouraged the evil birds for more bloodshed. SK, her girl friend, has vegetated due to the inhuman pains and sexual abuses while in police custody. Even other members of her family have been tortured and are still in the prison of terror. They are not free to move around within the country in which they were born. Pastor Arthur was beaten, disgraced, had his four ribs fractured. He has lost his ancestral property to fanatics. His relative have been suffering still in Pakistan. The Arthurs are fearful even in Canada.
Pastor Arthur has seen death face to face in many shapes for telling a Muslim girl about Christ. He has been through a series of mental and physical tortures for sharing his beliefs. Those tortures can mutilate the rationality of a being. Still this soul is sane and still a good provider for his family as a husband and father. He has been pastoring a congregation ever since he has landed in Canada. I became anxious to meet this soul and his congregation again. That opportunity came in the year 2002 when the HACC Ministry from Hamilton invited me to present my poems at their first national gathering of Asian poets and singers on November 16. The HACC Ministry of Hamilton asked the Writers Union of Canada to sponsor my reading. A day before that, PEN Canada was arranging a gathering at the University of Toronto for which I was selected to participate.
To be continued in Part 3;