Muslim leaders in Pakistan have expressed support for Christian nurses who have been accused of blasphemy at Punjab Institute of Mental Health in Lahore.
A report by the Aid to the Church in Need said senior Muslim leader Allama Muhammad Zubair Abid played an “important role in defusing the situation which so easily could have flared up and caused riots in different parts of the country.”
The Punjab Institute of Mental Health is reportedly the largest psychiatric center in southern Asia.
Nurses Sakina Mehtab Bibi, Jessica Khurram, and Treeza Eric were accused of uploading a video to a WhatsApp group that reportedly criticized the reaction of Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government to a European Union motion highlighting human rights violations in Pakistan.
The message, apparently recorded by an unidentified individual in France, included criticism of the country’s enforcement of controversial blasphemy laws and highlighted the role played by Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan, a controversial religious political party.
When word spread about the WhatsApp message, Muslim nurses and paramedics staged a demonstration against their Christian colleagues, marching around the campus and shouting Islamist slogans.
The Christian nurses were allegedly threatened, some put under pressure to convert to Islam.
Nursing superintendent Khalida Suleri and her supporters demanded the institute’s chapel be turned into a mosque. They marched inside the chapel, recited the Islamic Na’at chant, and confiscated the chapel key.
The Christian nurses appealed to Father Channan, director of the Lahore Peace Center, who requested the intervention of Abid, vice president of the Pakistan Ulema Board, a body of Muslim scholars.
Abid, who is also chairman of the Pakistan Peace Foundation, later declared that the Christian nurses did not commit blasphemy.
Paying tribute to the Muslim religious leader, the priest said “It is proof that God does work miracles. We experience them in our lives — those who are enemies can be reconciled.”
The incident was the latest in a series of blasphemy allegations against Christian nurses in Pakistan, including one last month when Mariam Lal and Navish Arooj were accused of tearing a sticker with Koranic verses from a hospital in Faisalabad. – report from Aid to the Church in Need