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Cardinal shocked by killing of couple in Pakistan

By Sarah Mac Donald - 08 November, 2014

Lawyer for Shahzad and Shama Masih says young couple were beaten by an angry Muslim mob on Tuesday and then burned alive.

Shahzad and Shama Masih

Shahzad and Shama Masih

Courtesy: Vatican Radio and Crux

The president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, has expressed his shock over the brutal killing of a young Christian couple in Pakistan, who had been accused of blasphemy.

In an interview with Vatican Radio, the Cardinal denounced the killings as “barbarous acts”.

According to the couple’s Christian lawyer, Shahzad and Shama Masih were beaten by an angry Muslim mob on Tuesday and then burned alive.

However, police in Pakistan claim the couple were beaten to death and their bodies were later burned.

“Obviously, one remains speechless before such barbarous acts,” Cardinal Tauran said.

“And what is worse is that religion is invoked in a specific way. A religion cannot justify such acts, such crimes. There is this blasphemy law which poses a problem.”

The Cardinal noted that there have been about 60 executions under the law since it was adopted by Pakistan.

He called for some international intervention in the matter.

Since direct intervention in Pakistan’s domestic affairs is not appropriate, the Cardinal commented, then legislators must be helped to understand that laws must respect the dignity of the person.

Cardinal Tauran said the Church must denounce such violent acts publicly, with consistency and force.

He said he hoped Muslim leaders would do the same as Muslims are victimised by these acts of violence as well, as they give a very negative image of Islam.

“Therefore, it is in their interest to denounce such acts in a vigorous manner,” he said.

The Cardinal said solidarity is the way to continue giving hope to Christians facing daily threats and violence. He also underlined some encouraging and well-received initiatives by the Church in the Middle East.

“We need to bet on fraternity,” he said, “which is the theme of the World Day of Peace.”

According to Crux news, the National Commission for Justice and Peace of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Pakistan accused the government of absolutely failing to protect its citizens’ right to life.

In a statement issued on 5 November, the NCJP condemned the brutal killing of Shahzad Masih (28) and his pregnant wife Shama Bibi (24) and pointed out that the killing of the couple at the hands of a mob was based on a “false accusation of blasphemy.”

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif also condemned the killings. He described the incident as “an unacceptable crime” in a statement issued on Thursday.

“A responsible state cannot tolerate mob rule and public lynching with impunity,” he said.

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