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Pakistani Gov't Refuses to Punish Violent Mob Who Set Christian Family's Home on Fire to Burn Them Alive

( [email protected] ) Sep 23, 2015 01:49 PM EDT
A violent mob in Pakistan torched the home of a Christian family and attempted to burn them alive by locking them inside before setting it ablaze, a Christian advocacy group has reported.
Boota Masih pictured with his family and their home, which was destroyed by a mob of radicals in the city of Islamabad. British Pakistani Christian Association

An angry mob in Pakistan torched the home of a Christian family and attempted to burn them alive by locking them inside before setting it ablaze, a Christian advocacy group has reported. However, the local police department is refusing to hold the violent perpetrators accountable.

The British Pakistani Christian Association reports that earlier this month, a mob of radicals in the city of Islamabad surrounded the home of 38-year-old Christian Boota Masih and began banging on the door, demanding he come outside.

When Masih answered the door, the mob's leader ordered him to take his family and abandon their home, including all of their belongings, or face severe consequences.

The mob claimed Masih and his family were trespassers in their own home; however, Masih told the advocacy group that he paid a million Pakistani rupees (about $9,500) in an oral agreement to purchase the house from a man named Ghulam Ali.

Because he was the legitimate owner of the house, Masih refused to comply with the demands of the mob, which was reportedly led by Ali's wife.

"I was terror stricken, the mob was threatening to kill me and my family. They had weapons in their hands and started to brandish them before me. I thought they would kill all of us," Masih explained. "I refused to leave my home - I had paid for it fairly and they had no right to ask me to leave."

In response, the angry mob began to beat him with metal rods and sticks, and locked Masih and his family inside a room before setting the house on fire.

Although the house was destroyed in the fire, Masih was able to rescue his family, which consists of his wife and six children.

"I broke the door down using all my strength, desperate to live and to save my family," Masih explained. "Soon other local Christians came to rescue us. They put out the flames and called the fire brigade."

The report notes that local authorities are still refusing to register a First Incident Report (FIR), even though witnesses to the attack and a written report having been submitted to the local police station.

Instead, Masih was arrested after Ali filed a FIR against him for allegedly attacking a woman who came to collect rent.

The BPCA explains that a donation campaign has been started to help support the Masih family. The group notes that local Christians have said that the family has a good reputation in the eyes of the public: Boota earns his living in the fruit market, while his wife works in a school.

Pakistan is notorious for its oppression of Christians, which make up a mere 2% of the country's population. Persecution watchdog group Open Doors ranked Pakistan in 8th place on its 2015 World Watch List of countries where Christians face the most severe persecution for their faith.

"Pakistan's Christians are caught in the crossfire between Islamic militant organizations and mobs that violently target Christians, and an Islamizing culture on the other hand that results in Christians being isolated from the rest of the population," notes the group.

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. The laws are often used to target religious minorities and are frequently manipulated to seek personal disputes.

In light of these shocking abuses, 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.