TWO Christian brothers have been shot dead outside a court in Pakistan, where they faced the death penalty for blasphemy.
Pastor Rashid Emmanuel, aged 32, and his brother Sajid, 24, had been accused of writing a pamphlet critical of the Prophet Muhammad. Both brothers denied the accusation, and the government minister for minority affairs, Shahbaz Bhatti, doubted the charges. He has blamed mosques in Faisalabad for the attack.
The Church of Pakistan diocese of Peshawar has called for urgent prayer to defuse a dangerous situation. In a statement, it said: “The situation in Waris Pura, Faisalabad, is very tense and the Christians are in great fear.
“The Bishop of Peshawar and the diocese condemn this act and request all partners to pray for this whole situation and protection of the Christians of Pakistan.”
The blasphemy law in Pakistan carries the death penalty, and, although no one has ever been executed under it, at least ten accused have been murdered before the completion of their trial for blasphemy, the BBC reported.
The brothers had been arrested this month, after a “disrespectful” pamphlet was found to have their names, addresses, and signatures on it. Christian supporters say the brothers were framed.
Shortly after their arrest, hundreds of demonstrators marched into the Waris Pura area, home to nearly 100,000 Christians, demanding the death penalty for the two accused.
The brothers were shot by unidentified gunmen outside court on Monday, and a police officer escorting them was critically wounded. Police reinforcements were called into the area after clashes broke out in a Christian area of the city shortly afterwards.
In Faisalabad, a partner of the charity the Barnabas Fund said: “The Christian community is devastated by the shocking day-light murder of these two young Christian brothers. People are now living in fear about what further attacks believers may face in this latest wave of anti-Christian violence. There is no respect for the court, and we feel powerless to defend ourselves.”
Human-rights activists and the Churches have called for repeal of the blasphemy laws, in an effort to end the persecution of Christians and other minorities.