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12 November 2014

Press release

Westminster urged to act against execution of Pakistani Christians

Westminster urged to act against execution of Pakistani Christians

Describing the burning to death of a young Christian man and his pregnant wife in a brick kiln in Pakistan as "barbaric", the Evangelical Alliance wants all Christians to sign a petition and come out and support a rally outside 10 Downing Street.

On 4 November 2014, 26-year-old Shahzad Masih and his 24-year-old wife Shama Bibi, who was four months pregnant, were beaten, tortured and burned alive in the fiery furnace of a brick kiln while the local police stood by and watched.

Director of advocacy Dr Dave Landrum says this latest incident is a clear misuse of the country's blasphemy law to persecute Christians.

"This barbaric act represents the latest in a long line of brutal acts of religious intolerance against Christians in a country which is set to receive more than £400 million in aid from taxpayers in the UK.

"The Evangelical Alliance, which represents two million evangelical Christians in the UK, call on the UK government to unequivocally condemn this execution of an innocent Christian couple and use its influence to persuade Pakistan to bring the full weight of the law against the perpetrators. There needs to be an acknowledgement that such barbarous attacks are no different in seriousness than the barbarous attacks of IS in the name of Islam. The world is watching and waiting for the Pakistani government to act fast and decisively to halt this persecution."

He added that consideration should be given to Pakistan's continued membership of the Commonwealth because it has failed to reform or repeal its biased blasphemy laws that have been used as a tool for discrimination against minorities, for the settling of personal vendettas or to steal possessions.

Head of the South Asian Forum of the Evangelical Alliance, Manoj Raithatha, has called on all Christians in the UK to sign a petition by the British Pakistani Christian Association, calling on the UK government to exert diplomatic pressure on Pakistan.

"We need 100,000 signatures on this petition, which calls on the UK and other western governments to condemn and do something tangible to ensure that there can be no 'business as usual' in Pakistan in relation to the murder of Christians under the pretense of its biased blasphemy law. It was shocking and horrifying that policemen stood by and watched the summary execution and did nothing to stop it. 

"Pakistan needs to ensure that the impunity for hate attacks against minorities is stopped. And they can do this by guaranteeing that perpetrators are convicted rather than released after a short period of remand as in previous similar incidents."

The British Pakistani Christian Association (BPCA) is organising a rally outside 10 Downing Street on 22 November from 11am to 1pm and is calling on Christians to come out in support.

"We are calling people of good conscience from any faith or no faith to join us and honour the lives of Shahzad and Shama, while calling for Britain to lever change in Pakistan through dialogue and engagement," said Chairman Wilson Chowdhry.

A one-hour Christian memorial service will take place at the beginning of the protest and will include a dance for Blasphemy Law victim Asia Bibi, by Catholic British National Dancer Latasha Sinclair. Catholic band Ooberfuse will perform a live remix version of their Free Asia Bibi song. The original song video gained over 105,000 views on You Tube.

The BPCA have lodged an additional complaint with the High Commissioner of Pakistan over the use of Mosque loudspeakers that once again are blamed for the mass frenzied hatred towards the victims.

Chowdhry said: "It would be a travesty of justice, and would send out mixed messages, if the Imams involved in the preaching of hatred were not prosecuted. However, I would not be surprised if once again all they receive is a slap on the wrist. This attack proves in no uncertain terms that it is not safe for Christians to live in Pakistan."

In 2011 the then Pakistan High Commissioner, Wajid Shamsul Hasan, told Release International, protesting outside the diplomatic mission, that he will do all in his power to protect the rights of Christians at risk in his country.

The petition can be accessed at: eauk.org/PakistanPetition

Media Enquiries

Danny Webster
Tel: 07766 444 650
Email: d.webster@eauk.org

Notes to Editors

Dr Dave Landrum is available for interview.

The petition, written by the British Pakistani Christian Association, is located at eauk.org/PakistanPetition and reads:

Justice for Shahzad and Shama

On 4th November 2014, a Christian couple Shahzad Masih (26 yrs) and Shama Bibi (24 yrs) were beaten, tortured and burned alive in the fiery furnace of a brick kiln – while those baying for their blood screamed praises to Allah.

The incident occurred after Muslim accusers led by Muslim landowner Yousaf Gujjar alleged Shama had burnt the Koran. He then sent men to three mosques in neighbouring towns, while he tried to coerce money out of the couple who he had locked in a room on his land.

Eventually in response to local Mosques preaching hatred over their loud speakers, a mob of over 300 Muslims gathered outside the locked room. They climbed the roof of the building and entered through the straw roof. They then beat the couple with sharp and hard implements, stripped them naked while they goaded them and finally burnt then alive in the kiln  when they could no longer stand due to their fractured bones.

We call on the Government of Pakistan to:

    • Ensure the impunity for hate attacks against minorities stops by guaranteeing that perpetrators are convicted.In previous similar incidents the attackers have been set free after a short period in remand.
    • Abrogate the biased blasphemy laws of Pakistan that have been used as a tool for discrimination against minorities and to settle personal vendettas or to steal another's possessions.
    • Shut down any mosque that ever incites hate attacks through preaching murder over a loudspeaker.
    • Implement laws that immediately free bonded labourers and act upon the laws immediately, to end modern day slavery in Pakistan

We call on Western nations/bodies providing aid to Pakistan to terminate subsidies, until the nation improves its extremely poor human rights record.

The Evangelical Alliance
We are the largest and oldest body representing the UK’s two million evangelical Christians. For more than 165 years, we have been bringing Christians together and helping them listen to, and be heard by, the government, media and society. We’re here to connect people for a shared mission, whether it’s celebrating the Bible, making a difference in our communities or lobbying the government for a better society. From Skye to Southampton, from Coleraine to Cardiff, we work across 79 denominations, 3,500 churches, 750 organisations and thousands of individual members. And we're not just uniting Christians within the UK – we are a founding member of the World Evangelical Alliance, a global network of more than 600 million evangelical Christians. For more information, go to www.eauk.org