August 3, 2009 – New York – AJC expressed grave concern for the safety of Pakistan’s Christian minority, after the brutal murder of a family by a Muslim mob. The grandfather was shot dead and the other six family members, including two children, died after their house was set on fire. More than 100 Christian houses were burned or looted over the last three days.
“The Christian community in Pakistan is now more vulnerable than ever,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “There can be no excuse for the wanton, indiscriminate assault on this or any other minority group – and this is not the first time that Christians in Pakistan, a U.S. ally, have been targeted either.” Christians comprise about 2 percent of Pakistan’s population.
The unprovoked violence in the Punjab province began before the weekend after a rumor spread that a copy of the Koran had been defiled at a Christian wedding. Under Pakistan’s much-criticized blasphemy laws, desecration of the Koran can result in life imprisonment and even death for defiling the name of Mohammed, the prophet of the Islamic faith.
But, Shahbaz Bhatti, Pakistan’s federal minister for minorities, said the allegation that sparked the rampage was baseless, and that no desecration had taken place.
While hundreds of rioters have been detained, and the Pakistan government reportedly will offer compensation to the victims, Harris said, “It is time to heed the calls of many in Pakistan to repeal the blasphemy laws that may well have served to fuel this anti-Christian violence.”