Muslim leaders in Pakistan intervened after nurses at a mental health centre in Lahore were accused insulting Islam on social media.
Pontifical charity Aid to the Church in Need reported that three nurses at the Punjab Institute for Mental Health faced accusations of blasphemy related to a video uploaded to a nurse’s WhatsApp group. The video was allegedly critical of the Pakistani government’s reaction to an EU motion concerning human rights violations in the country and calling on the European Commission to withdraw trade privileges for the country.
Muslim nurses and paramedics launched protests against their Christian colleagues, demonstrating on the grounds of the Punjab Institute and shouting slogans.
The Christian nurses, three of whom had gone into hiding for fear of their lives, appealed to the Lahore Peace Centre. The director of the Centre, Father James Channan, in turn called on Zubair Abid, vice-president of the Pakistan Ulema Board – a group of Muslim scholars. Abid heard from both parties in the dispute, and concluded the Christian nurses had not committed blasphemy.
“Mr Zubair Abid played a vital role in defusing the situation which so easily could have flared up and caused riots in different parts of the country,” said Father Channan, in remarks reported by Aid to the Church in need. Fr Channan also praised other Muslim civic leaders for their efforts to resolve the situation. “It is proof that God does work miracles,” he said. “We experience them in our lives – those who are enemies can be reconciled.”
Following Abid’s intervention, a hearing was held at the Punjab Institute, with representatives from the federal and provincial governments, Christian and Muslim nurses, Church leaders and police. A follow-up meeting, described by Fr Channan as a “reconciliation,” was later held in the Institute’s chapel.