Prayers for Pakistan: 2 Pastors Shot Dead Outside Courthouse

The recent report of 2 Pastors murdered outside of a courtroom reveals the manipulation of the blasphemy lawby extremists to target Christians and the government failure to provide adequate protection to religious minorities under threat  despite forewarning of the event. Please lift your prayers for the family and community of the Pastors and for the safety of those still in Faisalabad and vulnerable to the rising tensions.

The full details of the story are below. Please consider sending in a letter to  your Congressmen and Senators protesting the lack of security for Christians as well as the general failure of the Pakistani government to protect Christian, Ahmadi, and Hindu communities from violence. A sample letter can be found below. You can locate the name and address of your Representatives by visiting www.house.gov andwww.senate.gov.

*****************************************************************************************

Your prayers are needed in light of an increasingly threatening environment for Christians and other minorities in Pakistan. Reverend Rashid Emmanuel, 32, and his 30-year-old brother Sajid Emmanuel, falsely accused of creating a derogatory pamphlet about the Prophet Muhammad, were shot and killed on July 19 while being led in handcuffs under police custody back to jail after their hearing.

Christian Lawyers’ Foundation President Khalid Gill told Compass News Direct that the two bodies bore cuts and other signs of having been tortured, including marks on their faces, while the brothers were in police custody. It is believed by many Christian and human rights advocates that the attack was premeditated by protests the month before in Faisalabad, yet adequate protection was not provided for the suspects. Mounting violence and tension threaten the Pakistanis well-being and ability to live in freedom. Our prayer is that the government would step in to control the situation as they have promised they would do.

The prime suspect in the shooting is Khurram Shahzad. According to the details described in the FIR on July 01, 2010, Muhammad Ashraf, accountant of Khurram, brought a hand written pamphlet from city bus station and showed it to him, saying some people were passing them out at city bus stop. Khurram was originally a Muslim friend to Rashid and Sajid and served in the United Ministry Pakistan organization started by the two Pastors. In June, 2010, the brothers requested Khurram to discontinue his work with the organization. Khurram was enraged and warned them that there would be dire consequences.

When Khurram read the pamphlet thoroughly and also noticed that the names were the two Pastors, he immediately informed his proprietor and later put the matter with the Faisalabad trade association and religious leaders. Without investigating the facts, the religious leaders registered a blasphemy case against the two Christian brothers under section 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code on charges of distributing handwritten pamphlets containing disgraceful remarks against Prophet Muhammad.

According to the Center for Legal Aid and Assistance Settlement (CLAAS), Muslim extremists were actively protesting in Waris Pura, the part of Faisalabad where the two brothers lived and where nearly 100,000 Christians reside, as far back as July 10-more than a week before Rashid and Sajid were murdered. The initial protests, led by Muslim religious leaders, involved chanting for the death sentence of the Pastors and burning tires in the streets. The protesters broadcast announcements from surrounding mosques on July 11, spreading word that Christians were responsible for disgracing their Holy Prophet and called a protest of about 400 together in all.  Police security was there to control the mob, but the local residents were very aggressive, constantly demanding the death of Rashid and Sajid. High officials of Faisalabad were aware of this situation, but failed to arrange the proper security for the Emmanuel brothers and their family.

During the trial, handwriting experts notified police on July 14 that signatures on the pamphlets did not match those of the accused. The two leaders of United Ministries Pakistan believed they would be exonerated soon thereafter.

The shootings led to riots in Faisalabad. The entire event was reminiscent of the Gojra attacks from August 2009, where nine Christians were burnt alive, many were injured, and more than 120 Christian homes destroyed by a Muslim mob who were enraged about allegation that a Christian in a nearby village had defamed Islam.

According to National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP), 35 Christians and Muslims have been killed extra judicially in connection with allegations involving blasphemy since 1992. Minorities Concern of Pakistan reports that since 1987 at least 1035 men and women including Muslims, Ahmadis, Christians and Hindus have been accused though none of the allegations sustained or sentence was held by the higher judiciary of the country.

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari condemned the murders of the Pastors publicly on Tuesday, July 20, calling for immediate steps to arrest the culprits, expressing sympathy for the family, and stated that the life of every person was sacred and no-one could be allowed to take law into his own hands. He made no mention of repealing the blasphemy laws that allowed for incitement of this violence.

The blasphemy laws in Pakistan require the death penalty for anyone proven guilty of blasphemy. While there has never been an instance of execution in the court system, these extrajudicious killings occur frequently as in the case of Rashid and Sajid. Moreover, the laws are abused by Muslim extremists to get rid of anyone who stands in their way.

Asia News reports that Christian couple Nosheen and Leonard D’Souza, along with Professor Anjum James Paul face death threats for their work documenting the violence in Gojra in August 2009 and their report entitled “Burned alive: the fate of Christians in Pakistan.” Another case presented by Continental News on July 10reports that a Muslim youth responsible for shooting a Muslim friend over a girl is accusing a Christian friend of killing the other youth in the Punjab Province of Pakistan. The community in the area is allowing the accusation to advance because, according to Azhar Kaleem, General Secretary of the Pakistan Christian Lawyers Foundation (CLF), local Muslim villagers were jealous of the Christian’s family because they had done so well with their cultivation of their land.

The constant reaction of Muslim fundamentalists is to use the blasphemy laws as justification for violence against the suffering minorities in Pakistan and it needs to stop. Please join us today in writing a letter appealing for a more harmonious inter-faith society for Pakistan.

Sample Advocacy Letter

Dear Congressman/Senator _________:

In light of the recent extrajudicial execution of 2 Christian Pastors in Pakistan, we request the urgent response of the United States government and the Pakistani government to commit to adequately protecting Pakistan’s Christian, Ahmadi, and Hindu religious communities by providing security for those on trial for blasphemy and removing section 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code, which victimizes religious minorities on counts of blasphemy.

Secretary Clinton’s recent visit to Islamabad announcing $500 million in aid projects to Pakistan on July 19-the same day as the murder of the two Pastors-illustrates the striking impunity that continues to go on, yet the Pakistani government still receives U.S. government funds.

The Enhanced Partnership with Pakistan Act (also known as the Kerry-Lugar-Berman bill) is tied to a goal of “combating terrorism and violent radicalism, both inside Pakistan and elsewhere” in Section 5, authorizes funds for projects that promote “respect for human and civil rights” in subsection (f) (iv). Human and civil rights include the right to religious freedom and freedom of worship and belief.

Recent reports show several targeted killings of members of the Christian community by extremists as the government continues to fail in providing adequate protection to these communities. Reverend Rashid Emmanuel, 32, and his 30-year-old brother Sajid Emmanuel, who were falsely accused of creating a derogatory manual about the Prophet Muhammad, were shot and killed by masked men on July 19 while being led in handcuffs under police custody back to jail after their hearing. The killing was premeditated by over a week’s worth of demonstrations. Mobs of 400 Muslims, led by local Imams, gathered to call for the death of these pastors on blasphemy charges.

They are one example of the many minorities who fail to receive adequate protection from extremists and are extra judially killed on charges of blasphemy. The event was reminiscent of the Gojra attacks from August 2009, where nine Christians were burnt alive, many were injured, and more than 120 Christian homes destroyed by a Muslim mob who were enraged about allegation that a Christian in a nearby village had defamed Islam.

We appreciate the remarks of Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari who condemned the murder of the pastors publicly on Tuesday, July 20, calling for immediate steps to arrest the culprits and expressing that no-one could be allowed to take law into his own hands; however, the President should take one step further and repeal these poisonous blasphemy laws. Moreover, the United States should grant no more funding to Pakistan’s government until they have shown they will protect their religious minorities and work towards repealing these abusive and biased laws.

Sincerely,

Leave A Comment...