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Justice for Murdered Christian Couple Remains Illusive

11/03/2015 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that Pakistan’s Christian community has commemorated the first anniversary of the murder of a Christian couple who was burned alive after being accused of blasphemy. According to couple’s family and local Christian leaders, little has been done by the government to provide justice or assistance to the family of the murdered Christians.

On November 4, 2014, Shehzad Masih and his pregnant wife, Shama, were attacked and murdered by a mob of enraged Muslims in Kot Radha Kishan, a village located in Pakistan’s Kasur District. According to witnesses, the Christians were brutally beaten and then burned alive in the brick kiln where they worked. The mob was reportedly incited by local Islamic clerics using mosque loudspeakers to claim the Christian couple had committed blasphemy by burning pages of the Quran. Police attempted to intervene in the deadly assault, but were overwhelmed by the mob which some claim number as many as 1,000.

Over the weekend, the Christian couple’s family held a memorial service in their village to commemorate the anniversary of the brutal murders. Pastors and human rights activists who attended the service demanded that more must be done to protect religious minorities and their places of worship.

Atta Urehaman Saman, Coordinator for the National Commission for Justice and Peace, told ICC that, “A year has passed since the inhuman incident of [the] lynching of Shama and Shehzad in Kasur. However, [the] government has done [little] to stop the misuse of blasphemy laws and [to] protect its ‘second-class’ citizens.

Despite this, Saman commended recent responses by police to incidents where Christians have been accused of blasphemy. Saman said, “In a number of [recent] incidents, police controlled the mobs, which is an encouraging sign for religious minorities.

Imran Parkash, a relative of the deceased couple, told ICC that he and the family are unsatisfied with the government’s response to the murders. Parkash said, “The members of the family are still not given protection nor the promised compensation. The children are still seeking justice for their parents and are insecure for their future.

Parkash told ICC that some international charities stepped in to provide some assistance to the Christian couple’s children, but that the Pakistani government’s promises for compensation and assistance have continued to go unfulfilled. Parkash went on to say, “The court must speed up the trial process to punish the culprits as soon as possible.

Fr. Cecil Paul, a Catholic priest from Kasur District, told ICC, “The present government [is] not serious [about] protecting its minorities. There have been continuous human rights violations and cases of persecution throughout the year in [the] Kasur District. Alternative legislation must be introduced to curb the misuse of blasphemy laws as well as penalties for false accusations.

ICC’s Regional Manager for South Asia, William Stark, said, “What happened to this Christian couple is what Christians in Pakistan fear most if accused of blasphemy. The fear of mob violence and extra-judicial killing, which is commonplace when a Christian is accused of blasphemy, is a powerful tool in the hands of extremists looking to persecute already vulnerable Christians. One positive development that has come out of this incident is that local police have become more responsive when Christians have been accused of blasphemy. In fact, over the past year, police have successfully intervened in several cases and protected entire Christian communities being threatened by violent mobs. Still, more must be done by both Pakistan’s police and government to curb the abuse of the country’s notorious blasphemy laws. Until this is done, it is only a matter of time until another Christian is brutally murdered after being accused of blasphemy.