ASIA/PAKISTAN – Fake news about the rape and religious conversion of a Christian girl, and the attack on a church: damage to religious minorities
Lahore (Agenzia Fides) – On May 24, news spread in Pakistan of the alleged kidnapping of a 14-year-old Christian girl, Sunita Masih, in Faisalabad, Punjab Province. She was supposed to have been abducted, raped and then converted to Islam by Muslim men. After the Faisalabad police chief denied the incident, it was later said that the kidnapping took place in Sukkur (Sindh province), but here too the police denied such an act.
Asif Munawar, Catholic human rights activist from Faisalabad told Fides: “The news about Sunita Masih is false; the photo spread on social media is that of a girl who was kidnapped three years ago. There are people who spread false news about attacks and persecutions against religious minorities. But we have to pay close attention and check carefully. Even the latest news of the attack on a church in Okara has been found to be completely false”.
Father James Channan OP, Dominican Catholic priest, Director of the “Peace Center” in Lahore, comments to Agenzia Fides: “We condemn the fake news that was released earlier this week about the alleged kidnapping, rape and forced conversion of a Christian girl as well as that about an alleged attack on a church in Okara. Fake news is dangerous, it is horrible, it is a trap, and it adds to the worry and trauma of religious minorities and helps fuel hatred and resentment between communities of different beliefs and is a cancerous growth factor for interfaith relationships and ruin the country’s image”.
Fr. Channan, who himself works closely with leading Islamic religious representatives to create peace and harmony between people of different faiths, says: “We have to act responsibly, every time we receive a message we have to verify its truthfulness. It should be noted that with the hectic and uncontrolled distribution on social media, such fake news has gone viral, creating frustration and fear among members of religious minorities. We need to be aware of the danger of artificial fabricated messages spreading on the internet and social networks”. Fr. Channan points out: “We must understand, denounce and stop those who intend to create havoc by spreading false news, to support their own hidden programs or personal interests. There have been attacks on churches or attacks on members of religious minorities in Pakistan, but alarmism is harmful. We have to be able to rely on the truth and false news is counterproductive and, above all, harms the minorities themselves”. (AG-PA) (Agenzia Fides, 28/5/2021)