LAHORE: Religious scholars on Friday condemned the Kot Radha Kishan incident wherein a violent mob killed a Christian man and his pregnant wife.

The Peace and Harmony Network Pakistan – an association of scholars and different religious representatives – asked the government to show no mercy and punish those responsible for this brutality under the law.

“Our state has to act proactively and sincerely to protect religious minorities from violence and injustice,” a statement read.

In a joint statement, Archbishop of Lahore Sebastian Francis Shaw, Catholic Council for Inter-religious Dialogue and Ecumenism Chairman Bishop Dr Andrew Francis, Pakistan Ulema Council office-bearer Allama Zubair Abid and Peace and Harmony Network Pakistan Secretary-General Javaid William pointed out that incidents of hatred and prejudice were on the rise, especially in Punjab.

According to police, an enraged mob had beaten a Christian couple to death and burnt their bodies in the brick kiln for allegedly desecrating a copy of the Holy Quran.

The incident had taken place in Kot Radha Kishan, some 60km southwest of Lahore, and was the latest example of mob violence against religious minorities accused of blasphemy.

Archbishop Shaw said such incidents were the outcome of religious extremism, which was increasing alarmingly in society. He demanded the federal and all provincial governments to take measures to ensure safety of religious minorities.

Bishop Dr Francis said consistent failure by the authorities to tackle growing hatred and violence in the name of religion had effectively spread the message that anyone could commit abuses on the pretext of defence of religious sentiments. This time, those responsible either individuals or a group or a mob must be brought to justice besides protection to the communities at risk, he suggested.

Calling the act inhumane, Javaid William pointed out that quick response from the government, especially steps by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, were encouraging. “(But) we also hope justice will be done after an impartial investigation,” he added.

Abid appealed to all religious scholars to guide their followers and inform them about the real essence of Islam as the foundations of the religion were based on peace and brotherhood. He said those who burnt the young couple deserved no leniency, as the incident would increase fear among all religious minorities that any person or a mob could destroy their lives in the name of religion.

Appreciating the government’s decision of sending a case against the accused to the Anti-Terrorism Court to ensure justice, he said protection of every citizen was the responsibility of the state and the government should discharge it efficiently.

The Interfaith Council for Peace and Harmony also demanded speedy investigation of the incident and strict punishment to the accused.

A press release issued on behalf of the council said a delegation of the council, led by Badshahi Mosque prayer leader Maulana Abul Kabeer Azad, visited the house of the victims on Friday and expressed sympathies with the bereaved family.

The team termed the incident against the teachings of Islam.

Maulana Azad was quoted as saying that Islam does not allow taking law into one’s hand when a judicial system exists in the country. Even if someone is accused of blasphemy, the law of land should be allowed to come into force instead of penalising the accused by any individual or a group of individuals, he said.

He appealed to the masses in general and religious leaders in particular not to act on their own without investigating blasphemy cases and reporting the matter to law-enforcers instead of inciting religious emotions.

Published in Dawn, November 8th , 2014

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