Pakistan: Attacks on minorities for alleged blasphemy

According to reports received, a series of attacks against Christians started on 30 July 2009 in the village of Korian, Toba Tek Singh district in Punjab, Pakistan, and within 3 days, these attacks had spread to a nearby Christian colony in Gojra.
This violence was precipitated by an event at a wedding in the Korian village on 24 July 2009, when a few Muslims accused three Christians of tearing paper with Quranic verses. Muslim and Christian community leaders stepped in to resolve this conflict and requested that the accused apologize.
However, on 30 July, the mosques of Korian and nearby villages began spreading the allegation of Christians desecrating the Quran, inciting attack on Christians. That evening, a mob of about 3,000 people descended on Korian, and demanded those accused of desecrating the Quran be handed over to them. Out of a fear for their own safety the Christians ran away while the mob looted property and burned Christians’ houses. As the rumour of this blasphemy proliferated, the hostility towards Christians escalated in the district.

On the morning of 1st August, the local Ulema (Muslim legal scholars) led a procession against the alleged desecration and approached the Christian colony. In the afternoon, the mob, led by some armed and masked men (belonging to a banned religious organization, Sipah-i-Sahaba), attacked the colony and set fire to 68 houses. Six Christians, including four women and one child, were burnt alive, Mr. Hameed Masih, one of the accused, was shot, the residents’ belongings (cash, gold jewelry, T.V., air conditioning unit, computer, etc.) were taken and two Churches were ransacked. The policemen present did not try to control the mob.

The continuous violence against the religious minorities that has followed these events has created a very tense environment, and there is a feeling of insecurity amongst Christians in some settlements. Local human rights organizations are joining with religious minorities in order to pressure the government into eliminating the discriminatory Blasphemy Laws in effect in Pakistan. The leadership of the Catholic and Protestant Churches are drafting an appeal to the authorities requesting that the Blasphemy Laws be repealed, since these laws infringe upon the community’s right to freedom of religion. The National Commission for Justice and Peace has launched a petition to repeal the Blasphemy Laws, which will continue until mid-September 2009, and aims to collect over 300,000 signatures.

Please write polite letters expressing your concern about the violence against Christians in Pakistan and request the authorities to:

- repeal the Blasphemy Laws since they do not serve to ensure religious, as well as social harmony;

- ensure that all the culprits of the previous attacks on religious minorities be brought to justice and given exemplary sentences; and

- form a comprehensive policy and strategy to eliminate hate speech and violence against other religions and sects.

Please send letters to:

Mr. Asif Ali Zardari
President of Pakistan
President House, Islamabad, PAKISTAN.
Fax: +92-51-9270266, 9270269

Send copies to:
Mr. Yousaf Raza Gillani,
Prime Minister of Pakistan,
Prime Minister Secretariat, Islamabad, PAKISTAN.
Fax: + 92-51-9204632, 9221596

Mr. Shehbaz Sharif,
Chief Minister of Punjab,
Chief Minister Secretariat,
90 – Shahrah-e- Quaid-e-Azam,Lahore, PAKISTAN.

Mr. Syed Masood Kausar,
Federal Minister for Law and Justice,
Pak – Secretariat, Islamabad, PAKISTAN.

Diplomatic representatives of Pakistan in your countries.

13 August 2009