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PRESS RELEASE
ICC Calls on Pakistan's President Zardari to Defend Christians
International Christian Concern
04-Aug-2009
(ICC) is calling on Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari to defend religious freedom by taking swift measures to prosecute the Muslim mobs that attacked Christian neighborhoods near Faisalabad, Pakistan, burning over 100 homes and killing at least eight Christians in two related attacks occurring on July 31 and August 1.

The first riot began in Korian on Friday, July 31, a day after local Muslims accused a man of desecrating the Qur'an. Muslim clerics decried Talib's "blasphemy" and called for his death. A mob then gathered and looted and burned two churches and 75 of the 80 Christian houses in the village, setting up barricades to impede fire engines and burning alive domestic animals in the process.

Unsatisfied with the wreckage of Korian, the clerics and several radical groups incited a second mob to gather in Gojra on Saturday morning. They advanced through the neighborhood shooting in the air, throwing chemical and petrol bombs on houses, and looting indiscriminately. The mob attacked the residence of the Bishop of the Church of Pakistan, and again set up barricades in the street to prevent firefighters from reaching the burning houses. Three churches were also destroyed.

Seven of those killed were from the same family, including two children. They lived in Gojra and were burnt alive as they tried to escape their house, which the Muslim mob - estimated to be at least three thousand strong - looted and then set alight. The last confirmed casualty was found in the ashes of his house, burnt nearly beyond recognition.

ICC sources indicate that 35 Christians were critically injured, and 45 women and children were missing after the attack.

Christians have experienced severe discrimination at the hands of the current provincial government before, which under Shahbaz Sharif refused to publish or act on an investigation into the burning of a Christian village in 1997. This has created an atmosphere of impunity, and if the highest authorities in Pakistan ignore the current incident it will lead to repeat attacks throughout the country.

ICC urges all concerned parties to call the Embassy of Pakistan to express their opposition to this egregious violation of religious freedom and urge the President to take immediate action to prosecute the leaders of the mob, especially the radical clerics who called for the attacks.

Pakistan Embassies:

USA: (202) 243-6500
Canada: (613) 238-7881
UK: 0870-005-6967

www.persecution.org