A young Christian couple survived by four young children was confirmed to be brutally beaten and burned alive after their employer falsely accused them of ripping pages out of a Quran and throwing them into a brick kiln furnace, an official with the Church of Pakistan has revealed.
Raheel Sharoon, development officer of the Diocese of Raiwind, said Thursday that Shehzad Masih and his wife, Shamah were beaten and killed by a mob of 1,5000 because their employer was angry at the couple, who he claimed owed him money.
"The real story is that the owner of brick kiln, Yousaf Gujjar, lent some money to the couple and when he asked for the money to be returned there was a confrontation since a majority of brick kiln workers cannot return their loans in cash, but do it by working at the brick kiln. After which he started spreading rumors of desecration of the Quran," Sharoon said, according to the Episcopal News Service..
"On Tuesday, a mob of 1500-1600 people, from the Muslim religious community of nearby villages, gathered near the village of Clarkabad. This mob was gathered on the pretext that a Christian couple belonging to the said village and working as brick kiln workers had allegedly desecrated the pages of Quran by burning them in the brick kiln furnace," he continued.
"The couple was pulled out of their house. ... After that, the mob gathered around the brick kiln where Shehzad and Shamaa used to work and where the alleged desecration took place. They tore away the clothes of Shehzad and Shamaa, and paraded them naked around the brick kiln twice before attacking them and beating them to near death.
"After thoroughly beating both the victims, they threw them in the furnace of the brick kiln and burned them alive. When the family of the victims went to claim the dead bodies, all they found were few bones. ..."
According to a relative, Shamah was expecting a fourth child when they were killed.
Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has denounced the killing and has said the law should pursue and punish those responsible.
"A responsible state cannot tolerate mob rule and public lynching with impunity.... I have directed the Punjab chief minister to show no mercy and the law should take its course to punish those who are responsible for this act," he said on Wednesday.
Under Pakistan's harsh blasphemy laws, anyone accused of insulting Islam or the Prophet Muhammad risks a violent and bloody death at the hands of vigilantes.
However, Human Rights Watch's Phelim Kine said the laws often target religious minorities and are "all too often manipulated to seek personal disputes."
According to BBC News, "scores" of Christians have been found guilty of desecrating the Koran or of blasphemy since 1990.
Since 2002, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom has called on the administration to designate Pakistan a "country of particular concern," a step that would make it eligible for sanctions or other measures intended to prod governments to stop violating religious freedom.