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  • » 08/02/2009, 00.00


    Eight Christians burned alive in Punjab

    Fareed Khan

    One of them is a child of 7 years. Among the dead there are 4 women. Religious and militant Islamic fundamentalists were inciting the crowd. The fuel is the same as that used in the destruction of Shanti Nagar (1997); Sangla Hill (2005) and Koriyan, a day before. The police accused of negligence.

    Gojra (AsiaNews) - Pakistani special forces have taken control of the town of Gojra (Punjab) after yesterday’s bloody episode in which at least 8 people - including 4 women and a child of 7 years - were burned alive and 20 others wounded. At least 50 houses of Christians were burned and destroyed and thousands of faithful fled to escape execution. Relatives of the victims refuse to take care of dead bodies and do not want funerals until the culprits are arrested. Some of the killed have been identified: Hamed Masih, 50, Asia Bibi, 20; Asifa Bibi, 19, Imam Bibi, 22; Musa 7; Akhlas Masih, 40, Parveen, 50.

    At least 3 thousand Muslims, after they have were incited by local religious authorities, marched to the Christian village Gojra founded 50 years ago. Groups of young Muslims - perhaps from the Sunni group Sipah-e-Sahabaha - with their faces covered started to shoot wildly. The villagers fled, but some were trapped and were killed by the uncontrollable fire unleashed by the mob.

    To burn the houses, the militants used a particular fuel, that is difficult to extinguish. According to witnesses, the same fuel was used in the village of Shanti Nagar, burned in February 1997, in the destruction of the village of Sangla Hill (2005); in the burning of the 50 houses of Christians and the two churches on the evening of July 30 in Koriyan near Gojra.

    It all started weeks ago with charges of blasphemy against Talib Masih, who is accused of having burned pages of the Koran during a wedding ceremony on July 29 at Koriyan.

    On July 30 hundreds of Islamic militants attacked and set on fire the houses of Christians in Koriyan and two Protestant churches, the Church of Pakistan and the New Apostolic Church. According to police, some Christians fired shots against the militants, further fuelling their violent response.

    The minister for minorities, Beat Shahbaz, a Catholic, has accused the police of negligence. The local Christians say they have been requesting the protection of law enforcement officers for days because the situation was tense, but have been ignored.

    Some Christians argue that although the police were present during the attack at Gojra, the thugs were not apprehended. Other witnesses say that after a while the police tried to stop them, but the militants also attacked the police injuring some.

    Yesterday, as the news of attacks against Christians spread, in Lahore there was a demonstration to demand guarantees of freedom for Christians.

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    See also

    05/11/2014 PAKISTAN - ISLAM
    Bishop of Islamabad: Couple burned alive, barbaric act shrouded by a guilty silence
    Shahzad Masih, 28, and his wife, Shama, 25, had four children and the woman was pregnant. Accusation made by Shahzad’s employer; at least 400 people attacked, shot and burned the bodies of the young couple. Christian activists: yet another abuse of the blasphemy laws.

    14/11/2005 PAKISTAN
    Pakistani Church leader express solidarity to Christian village attacked

    13/11/2005 PAKISTAN
    Thousands of Muslims burn Christian churches, convents, schools and homes in Punjab

    The Justice and Peace Commission accuses the police of "criminal negligence" because they did not intervene, and also criticizes ministers and politicians for not scrapping the blasphemy law.

    17/04/2009 PAKISTAN
    Lahore High Court clears two Christians of blasphemy charges
    James and Buta Masih had been imprisoned since 2006 on charges of burning a copy of the Qur'an in the street. The court has declared the charges unfounded, and has ordered their release. A Catholic priest calls for the repeal of the law on blasphemy, which he calls "killer."

    22/05/2015 PAKISTAN
    Pakistan: 106 people on trial for the lynching of a Christian couple, accused of blasphemy
    An anti-terrorism court has indicted them for murder. Hundreds of people stoned to death and then burned alive Sajjad Masih and his wife Shama. The woman, pregnant with her fifth child, was accused of setting fire to pages of the Koran.

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