A Christian couple in Pakistan have been beaten to death by an angry crowd after being accused of desecrating a Koran, police say.
Shahzad Masih and his pregnant wife Shama Bibi, a married couple with four children, were beaten and then burnt alive in a brick kiln where they worked yesterday (4 November) after they were accused of desecrating the Quran by a co-worker.
According to the Pakistan Christian Post, mosque loudspeakers in Kot Rada Kishan, Kasur district of Punjab, were used to call a Muslim mob together to ‘teach a lesson to the blasphemers’. After the mob had beaten the couple and burnt them alive, other Christians in the area fled fearing for their safety.
The police officer in charge of the investigation, Inspector Maqbool Ahmed, says he was told by local residents that the couple was still alive when they were shoved into a brick kiln.
Reports from the area suggest that the allegations of blasphemy against the couple began to circulate after the husband, Sajjad Massih, had a financial dispute with his employers.
“Falsely accusing Christians of blasphemy has become a routine,” says Francis, who heads Pakistan’s Centre for Legal Aid Assistance and Settlement. “No false accuser has ever been punished. Such impunity has led to a surge of such incidents.”
The killings come less than a month after an elderly, mentally ill British man, who is on death row in a Pakistani prison for committing blasphemy, was shot and injured by a guard.
A Pakistani court last month upheld the death penalty for Asia Bibi, a Christian woman convicted of blasphemy in 2010 – a case which sparked a global outcry.
Fr. James Channan, O.P., director of the Peace Center Lahore said that the blasphemy laws have “made Christians vulnerable and insecure.”
Currently, he reported, there are some 1,100 cases registered under these laws, with around 950 of the accused either Muslim or Ahmadiyya, a heterodox Muslim movement. “Around 135 are Christians,” he said, and the remainder are Hindu.