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Thieves Stone Christians, Killing Woman, for Going to Police

Group Wanted to “Teach a Lesson” to Christians after Robbed Man Reported Them

WASHINGTON, D.C. (March 6, 2009) – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that on March 2 a group of 25 Muslim radicals attacked the women and children of a Christian neighborhood in Pakistan while the male inhabitants were absent, killing one woman and injuring 12 other people. This attack was the culmination of several days of tension after a young Christian man registered a criminal case against a few Muslim youths who mugged him on February 26. Insulted that a Christian would register a case against Muslims, the attack was planned in order to “teach a lesson” to the Christian community.

According to Emmanuel Shad, an elder at the Sango Wali village’s Presbyterian Church, 17-year-old Mr. Imran Masih was robbed by his Muslim neighbors while he was on his way home from work on February 26. The thieves physically assaulted him and stole about $40 and his cell phone. They did not hide their faces, so when Imran returned home he told his family who had mugged him. Imran’s family approached the Muslim boys’ families to request that they return the money and valuables, but were refused.

Angered at the Christian family for reporting this case to the police, on March 2 the youths who robbed Imran gathered several accomplices to seek revenge.

“Around 25 armed Muslim men attacked the Christian community and the Presbyterian Church in Sango Wali, Aroop town, Gujranwala on March 2 at about 11:00 am. They abused the young girls, stoned the Christian community, killing Ms. Shahkeela Bibi, a 45-year-old Christian woman, and injuring 12 others,” reported Ms. Surayia Channan, a local human rights activist in Gujranwala.

The time was chosen strategically, because the attackers knew that at 11:00 am most of the men would be away for work. A few rushed back to their homes when they heard about the incident.

The Muslim mob invaded the neighborhood and the church armed with guns, hockey sticks, stones and small weapons. After attacking the people in the neighborhood, the criminals damaged the doors and windows of the church and shouted demeaning statements against Christianity. The terrorists did not allow a local rescue team to provide first aid to those they had injured. They threatened anyone who tried to provide assistance to the injured or give information to the police, but finally dispersed when police arrived on the scene.

Ms. Shahkeela Bibi died on the spot and 12 others who were seriously injured were admitted to the civil hospital in Gujranwala. As of this morning, all of those injured have been discharged from the hospital.

The Christians did file a criminal case against the men who attacked them, but police have only arrested two of the 12 suspects named in the case so far. The husband of deceased Ms. Shahkeela Bibi was hesitant to pursue further legal action due to pressure from local politicians and police officials, and is considering withdrawing his complaint. At present, the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace is supporting the victims in legal matters.

Ms. Suraiya told ICC that there are 20–25 Christian families belonging to the Presbyterian Church living among almost 1,500 Muslim families in the village. Mr. Imran Masih and Ms. Shahkeela Bibi were unknown to each other and had no family relation.

A large crowd of Christians staged a series of protests on March 2 and 3 in Gujranwala to demand justice.

Samuel Wallace, ICC’s Regional Manager for South & Central Asia, said, “Not only is it appalling how these men could be ‘insulted’ for having their theft held to account by their victim simply because he was Christian, this case reveals how bankrupt the Pakistani justice system is. Police turned a blind eye to the theft and four days later the same criminals murdered a woman who had nothing to do with the robbery. There will be no true justice in Pakistan until the weakest in their society can see police as an ally instead of an enemy.”

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