AS many as 50 Muslim villagers armed with clubs and axes recently attacked a showing of the ‘Jesus’ film near Sargodha, Pakistan, 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.
Officers at the Saddr police station refused to register a case against the Muslim assailants, sources said.
Three part-time evangelists, identified as Ishtiaq Bhatti, Imtiaz Ghauri and Kaleem Ghulam, had screened the film within the premises of the Catholic Church of Chak. 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.
Injured 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 said a Muslim cleric instigated the Muslim villagers, who were armed with clubs, spades and axes.
“They attacked us and broke all our appliances and took away funds collected by people 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. The Muslim hardliners were forced to evacuate the church grounds, but only after a stand-off of nearly two hours.
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 prophet. Muslims hold Christ as a prophet, they believe he was never crucified, having been replaced by a man identical to him.