Christian family in Pakistan attacked by angry mob

A Christian was brutally beaten after a false accusation of burning pages of the Quran. A mob of fanatics destroyed their house and business. The victim is in hospital, in critical condition.

A Christian family in Pakistan suffered a violent attack at the hands of an angry mob of Muslim fanatics this past Saturday, 25 May, following a false accusation of blasphemy.

According to information gathered by the international charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), the false accusation led to a new wave of terror against Christians.

Meeting at the police headquarters in Sargodha following the attack
Meeting at the police headquarters in Sargodha following the attack

Mr Nazir Gill Masih, who owns a shoe factory in Gillwala Mujahid colony in Sargodha, Punjab, was beaten after a false accusation of having burnt pages of the Quran. Between 7-8 am a mob attacked the family, ransacking and burning their factory and home. Although ten members of the family were able to escape, Mr Nazir Gill Masih was badly beaten and critically injured before police arrived and managed to remove him from the mob. He was taken to the hospital for urgent medical care.

Mr Naeem Yousaf Gill, Executive Director of the National (Catholic) Commission for Justice and Peace, told ACN that the attacks were probably motivated by business rivalry and personal disputes. “The final reasons will become clearer after an investigation”, he said.

The Archbishop of Islamabad-Rawalpindi, Joseph Arshad, visited Sargodha on the day of the incidents. “I was shocked and very sad to learn about the attack. This incident was inhuman. I went immediately to Sargodha, because it is in my diocese, and I had to be with my people, to encourage my people and my priests, and to speak to the administration to see if they are conducting a fair investigation of the incidents”, he said to ACN.

In a phone call to ACN he urges the government to introduce strict policies to avoid these extremist and violent incidents and to ensure the security of the Christian community.

“Nobody is allowed to take the law in his own hands, and this is happening in Pakistan. They should introduce policies to ensure that such incidents cannot happen again”, he said.

The Catholic leader explains that “the situation is under control now, but the Christian population is still in fear, most of them have left to stay with other relatives. Caritas will stand by if they need any support”.

Archbishop Joseph Arshad and Christian Senator Tahir Khalil Sindu visited the police headquarters in Sargodha after a mob of Muslim fanatics attacked a Christian on May 25, 2024
Archbishop Joseph Arshad and Christian Senator Tahir Khalil Sindu visited the police headquarters in Sargodha after a mob of Muslim fanatics attacked a Christian on May 25, 2024

Different sources confirmed to ACN that Mr Nazir is in the intensive care unit, in critical condition. Brutal videos and images sent to the charity, showing a bloody and unconscious elderly man, appear to support the dramatic state of Mr Nazir’s health. “Another fellow who tried to save Mr Nazir was also beaten by mob”, says Mr Naeem Yousaf Gill. “The rest of the family hasn’t been hurt and are now in the custody of police”, Mr Naeem told the charity.

Blasphemy is a capital crime in Pakistan and can be punishable by death or life in prison. However, blasphemy is often misused for false accusations and mobs take matters into their own hands and lynch the suspects.

Prof. Shadid Mobeen, contributor to ACN’s Religious Freedom in the World report, and a nephew of the victim, confirmed the incident and the critical situation of Mr Nazir Masih, telling ACN that “the role of the international community and media is essential to pressure Pakistan to protect its religious minorities from the extremist mindset”.

ACN strongly condemns the attack and the violence against the Christian community. The organisation stands in solidarity with the affected family and the whole Christian community in Pakistan.

This attack recalls the riots in Jaranwala that were sparked on 16 August 2023 by another false accusation of blasphemy, when rumours began to spread that brothers had disrespected the Quran. Mobs then proceeded to attack Christians, their homes and places of worship.

 

By Maria Lozano.

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