ROME: A top Vatican official has described the lynching of a Christian couple in Pakistan as a humiliation for all of humanity.
Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, the chair of the Roman Catholic church's council for interfaith dialogue, said he had been profoundly shocked by accounts of the horrific death of Shehzad Masih and Shama Bibi.
“How can we remain impassive before such crimes, justified in the name of religion?,” Tauran said on Vatican Radio, urging Muslim leaders in Pakistan to vigorously condemn the killings.
“It is all of humanity that is humiliated,” he said, adding: “The first victims are in fact Muslims because these misdeeds give an image of Islam that is terrible."
The incident took place at the town of Kot Radha Kishan, some 60 kilometres southwest of Lahore.
On Wednesday, police arrested 50 villagers who were believed to be part of the mob that beat the couple to death.
The arrests included the owner of the brick kiln where 25-year-old Shama, who was pregnant at the time of the incident, and her husband Shahzad Masih worked as bonded labourers.
According to reports, more than a thousand charged people from three nearby villages tortured the couple before putting them into the kiln’s furnace on Tuesday. Police said a local religious leader had fanned the issue.
Blasphemy is a hugely sensitive issue in the country, with even unproven allegations often prompting mob violence.
Anyone convicted, or even just accused, of insulting Islam, risks a violent and bloody death at the hands of vigilantes.