07/20/2010, 00.00
PAKISTAN

Faisalabad, murdered brothers buried. Justice and Peace: abolish the blasphemy law now

Fareed Khan
At 8 this morning the community bid a final farewell to Sajid and Rashid Emmanuel. Their murder has sparked violent clashes between Christians and Muslims. The police are patrolling the streets but the situation is "explosive." Catholic activist: "renewed commitment to cancellation of discriminatory laws." Christian couple threatened with death for a documentary on Gojra.

Faisalabad (AsiaNews) – The funeral of Rashid Emmanuel, a 36 year-old pastor, and Sajid Masih Emmanuel, 30, shot to death yesterday, were held this morning at 8 am in Faisalabad. The two Christian brothers were executed outside the court, after the hearing of the trial that saw them charged with blasphemy, a charge from which they were about to be acquitted. The murders have sparked violent clashes between Christians and Muslims in the suburbs of Warispura and Dawoodnagar and tension remains high. Meanwhile, the Catholic Churches National Commission for Justice and Peace (Ncjp) redoubles its fight for the abolition of the blasphemy law and called today for a series of meetings in various cities throughout Pakistan.

Local sources report that a "state of emergency" is in force in Faisalabad in a bid to stem sectarian violence. Christians are "outraged", tension remains high and the situation is "explosive”.  The ARY TV correspondent in the city reports that "the reality is very similar to Gojra" and, if appropriate measures are not taken, a massacre could be repeated. The facts of Gojra (and Koriyan) are linked to another charge of blasphemy. On July 30, 2009 thousands of Islamic fundamentalists stormed the village of Koriyan, burning 51 Christian homes. On August 1, at least 3 thousand extremists targeted the Christian community in Gojra, burning seven people alive (including two children and three women), wounding 19 and burning hundreds of homes.

At dawn the bodies of two Christian brothers left the Allied Hospital Faisalabad, where an autopsy was performed. The funeral took place at 8 am, in the presence of representatives of the Christian community and human rights activists. The murder of Sajid and Rashid outside the court recalls the murder of Manzoor Masih, a Christian accused of blasphemy who was shot dead near the court in Gujranwala, 5 April 1994.

For the past two years Sajid and Rashid Emmanuel had been leaders of the "United Ministries Pakistan" in Daudnagar, near the Christian colony of Wareispura. They were accused of blasphemy after a Muslim, Khurram Shahzad, reported to police that they had distributed leaflets slanderous of the prophet Muhammad. In fact, the police were set to exonerate the two brothers because the handwriting examination by the prosecution found the signatures on the leaflets did not coincide with those of the two brothers.

The infamous blasphemy law - introduced by the Pakistani dictator Zia ul-Haq in 1986 – once again became an excuse to carry out executions. Peter Jacob, executive secretary of the Catholic Churches National Commission for Justice and Peace (Ncjp) renewed his appeal through AsiaNews for the repeal of the rule "that continues to cause innocent victims. "Yesterday there were violent clashes" confirms the activist and the police "are patrolling roads and properties to avoid further incidents." One Christian was wounded in the clashes and there are unconfirmed reports of the death of a third Christian.

The Executive Secretary of Ncjp speaks of "spontaneous reactions" to the murder of two brothers by the Christian community. The demonstrations, however, triggered the reaction of Muslims, incited by the imams of mosques in the city. Local sources state that homes and "popular shops” were attacked in an attempt to cripple the livelihoods of Christians.

Peter Jacob points out that yesterday's murders "require renewed commitment to the cancellation of all discriminatory".  He adds that "it is necessary to convince government and public opinion that these rules are dangerous, first of all, for the very survival of Pakistan." Today at 5 pm, concludes the activist in various cities across the country including in Lahore and Karachi "public meetings will be held to discuss the murder of these two Christians and steps to take in the fight against blasphemy”.

Meanwhile death threats against a Christian couple, who produced a documentary on violence in Gojra in August 2009 continue. Nosheen and Leonard D'Souza, along with Professor Anjum James Paul, have produced a report entitled "Burned alive: the fate of Christians in Pakistan", triggering the reaction of Muslim fundamentalists. The couple also founded an association - the South Asian Research and Resource Center, www.sarrcpk.org - in defence of human rights, denouncing persecution and suffering of minorities in Pakistan.

The documentary on the tragic events of Gojra, divided into two parts, is available on YouTube at the links below:

 

1) www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nvyy6K6dPUA

2) www.youtube.com/watch?v=moDbIWYMaQ4

 

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