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Shock at ‘deadliest attack on Christians’: CEN 8.14.09 p 1. August 20, 2009

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of Pakistan, Persecution.

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Funerals for the victims of the anti-Christian pogrom in Pakistan began last week, with over 500 people packing Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Church in Gojra for services for the seven Catholic victims of the violence.

Three members of the Church of Pakistan and seven Catholics were killed on Aug1 by a Muslim mob in Gojra in Faisalabad province in the Eastern Punjab. Reports from Pakistan emailed to The Church of England Newspaper along with press accounts indicate the violence began on July 30 at a Christian wedding in the village of Koriyan, near Gojra.

As the newly married couple left the church, guests tossed flowers, rice, slips of paper with words of prayer or encouragement and confetti onto the new couple according to local custom. Muslim on-lookers accused those tossing the confetti of having shredded a Koran, violating law 295 which criminalizes blasphemy for those who offend Islam, the Koran or Mohammed.

Since 1986, accusations of blasphemy for offending Islam have been lodged against 982 Pakistani Christians—with 25 killed by Muslim vigilantes defending the honor of their faith, according to data collected by Minorities Concern of Pakistan. The accusations of shredding a Koran led to stones being thrown. A fight ensued, and houses set ablaze.

On Aug 1, violence erupted when eight buses packed with masked and armed Islamic militants from outside the area, entered the neighboring Christian town of Gojra. The militants began chanting anti-Christian slogans, accusing the Pakistani Christians of being in league with America and enemies of Islam.

The sounds of the chanting mob alerted most of the residents of the town to the danger, and when the mob began to spray houses with gasoline, setting them alight, most of the residents had already fled. Seven of the dead died in the fires while three were shot to death, 68 homes were destroyed along with a Church of Pakistan church and an independent church.

Speaking to the congregation at the catholic funeral for seven members of the Hamid family, the Church of Pakistan’s Bishop John Samuel of Faisalabad said “while we believe those killed for their faith go to heaven, there are those who kill others for the promise of heaven.”

“Only the Word of God can bring comfort to our heavy hearts,” he said according to an account of the service given by the Union of Catholic Asian News (UCAN).

The pastor of Sacred Heart Catholic Church Fr. Shafique Hadayat told the congregation at the close of the service the dead had not died in vain. The Aug 1 attack on Gojra was the “deadliest attack on Christians in the history of this country,” he said.

But “their blood will not be wasted,” he said and would mobilize public opinion to bring an end to Pakistan’s Blasphemy Law.

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