Muslim Fundamentalists in Pakistan Tied to Catholic's Murder

Bishops’ Panel Imputes a Religious Motivation to the Crime

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LAHORE, Pakistan, SEPT. 10, 2004 ( Nasir Masih, a Catholic arrested on a trumped-up charge of robbery, died after being attacked by a lynch mob of Muslim fundamentalists, including six policemen, a bishops’ commission says.

The Justice and Peace Commission of the Pakistani bishops’ conference confirmed the incident to the Vatican’s Fides agency. Masih, 26, died last month, the agency reported Wednesday.

«The murder had a religious motivation,» explained Peter Jacob, executive secretary of the bishops’ commission.

«It was an obvious conspiracy to hit me, by killing my son,» said Mukhtar Masih, Nasir’s father, stressing that his son «would never have robbed anything.»

On Aug. 16, Nasir Masih, who lived in the Baldia Siekhupoura district 45 kilometers (27 miles) from Lahore, was kidnapped while he was at home and dragged by force by a group of Muslims who accused him of stealing.

A few hours later, the district’s police station informed Nasir’s family that he had been arrested. Three days later, the family received the news of his death. Numerous wounds and bruises were found on his body.

Days later, Christian protesters and moderate Muslims blocked the road that joins Lahore and Siekhupoura, calling for respect of minorities and religious freedom. The police intervened to disperse the protesters.

The organization Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) told Fides that the police also threatened the Masih family’s lawyer, urging him not to denounce officers of the police corps.

«This tragedy is the result of the unacceptable brutality of the police and those responsible for the crime must be handed over to justice,» said Stuart Windsor, a CSW official.

«Masih was not officially accused of blasphemy; his death, rather, is proof of the growth of fundamentalist violence against Christians in Pakistan,» Windsor said. «The violence is supported by the blasphemy law and by extremist teachers in the madrasas,» Koranic schools.

Nasir’s murder is added to that of two other Catholic youths who died at the hands of Muslim extremists or police. This was the case of Javed Anjum, 19, of Quetta, who died May 2 in Faisalabad. His body had 26 wounds, inflicted by a teacher and some students of a Muslim school who wanted to convert him to Islam.

And Samuel Masih, 32, arrested in August 2003 for alleged blasphemy, died in hospital on May 28, attacked by a Muslim fundamentalist security guard.

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