“Great dismay” at the shooting and killing of two young Christians in Faisalabad on 19 July was expressed by the World Council of Churches (WCC) general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit in letters to Pakistan’s president and its prime minister.
Pastor Rashid Emmanuel and his brother Sajid Emmanuel were shot dead on court premises by unidentified gunmen when they were taken there by police to face a charge of blasphemy against Islam.
In his letters, Tveit appealed to the Pakistani authorities “to ensure immediate and necessary actions to bring to justice those who are responsible” for the murders.
He also reiterated the concern that the “misuse of the Blasphemy Law in Pakistan has led to physical violence, damage, destruction of properties and loss of life”, and called on the Pakistani leaders “to initiate measures towards the repeal of the Blasphemy Laws and to secure the rights and dignity of all individuals in Pakistan society”.
In a public statement on “The misuse of the Blasphemy Law and the security of religious minorities in Pakistan”, the WCC Central Committee considered that the law had become “a major source of victimization and persecution” of religious minorities who are living “in a state of fear and terror”, in September 2009.
“We do not know what to do. We are helpless,” Victor Azariah, general secretary of the National Council of Churches of Pakistan, which groups four Protestant churches, told Ecumenical News International (ENI) on 21 July from his office in Lahore.
Church groups say Pakistan’s controversial blasphemy law, which provides for a mandatory death sentence or life imprisonment even for unintentional blasphemy offences, is often misused against Christians and others to settle property and personal disputes.