For Immediate Use
Brutal murder of Christian couple shows how dangerous Pakistan is for minorities
Global Minorities Alliance, a human rights charity which fights for minority communities the world over, has condemned the brutal murder of a Christian couple in the Punjab region of Pakistan following allegations of blasphemy.
Shahzad Masih and Shama Bibi, a married couple with four children, were beaten and then burnt alive in a brick kiln where they worked yesterday (4 November) after they were accused of desecrating the Quran by a co-worker.
According to the Pakistan Christian Post, mosque loudspeakers in Kot Rada Kishan, Kasur district of Punjab, were used to call a Muslim mob together to ‘teach a lesson to the blasphemers’. After the mob had beaten the couple and burnt them alive, other Christians in the area fled fearing for their safety.
The news of the attack came on the same day that the Prince of Wales called on faith leaders not to remain silent over the worldwide suffering of religious minorities, and described the persecution of Christians around the world as an ‘indescribable tragedy’.
“This double murder is the latest in a long line of violent attacks in Pakistan caused by allegations of blasphemy,” says Manassi Bernard, Chief Executive of Global Minorities Alliance.
“We condemn this attack in the strongest terms possible. It shows just how dangerous Pakistan is for religious minorities such as Christians, Ahmadis, Hindus and Sikhs, we join the Prince of Wales in his calls for faith leaders – as well as political leaders – not to remain silent on this issue.
“The safety of the people is challenged on a daily basis by religious extremists or people settling scores by crying ‘blasphemy’. It is time the world sat up and took notice; otherwise the Pakistan government will continue to turn a blind eye to the suffering and brutality which becomes more commonplace every day.”
Rafiq Hayat, the National President of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community UK, joined Global Minorities Alliance in its condemnation:
“The horrific murder of two Christians in Kot Radha Kishan on accusations of blasphemy is utterly deplorable. Pakistan’s blasphemy laws are repeatedly being used to target Christians, Ahmadis, Shias and others and mob justice and violence is sadly commonplace. Those who perpetrate violence and murder must be held to account and face the full force of the law so that all citizens of Pakistan can live in peace.”
Global Minorities Alliance has previously campaigned against the misuse of blasphemy laws, notably in the case of Aasia Bibi, a Christian farmhand who is on death row after a dispute over drinking water resulted in allegations of blasphemy.
“These laws are used as instruments of persecution in the hands of the strong to target the weak and the vulnerable,” said Manassi Bernard in the report ‘Invisible Citizens of Pakistan: Minorities in Focus’, which was published earlier this year and can be read here: www.globalminorities.co.uk/gma-reports/invisible-citizens-of-pakistan.
“Before the remnants of the minority communities are destroyed, the need of the hour is for the Government to make changes to discriminatory laws and devise a strategy to ensure the security and protection of the fundamental rights of minorities.
“It is the duty and responsibility of every state to provide the fundamentals of human life to all its citizens; protection, justice, equality, access to education and public life. It goes without saying that societies are recognised through the treatment of their minorities.
“The ‘invisible citizens’ of Pakistan can only be made visible if Pakistan changes its current practice of attacking minorities rather than protecting them; then it will truly be the country originally envisioned by its founding father, Quaid-e-Azam Muhammed Ali Jinnah.”