Vatican aide outraged over slaying of Pakistan couple accused of blasphemy

(Photo: REUTERS / Athar Hussain)Employees of Pakistan's biggest television station Geo TV attend a protest against the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority after the station's license was suspended, in Karachi May 22, 2014. Pakistan's Geo TV said it was ramping up security on Tuesday after it became the object of dozens of blasphemy accusations for playing a song during an interview with an actress.

A top Vatican aide has implored the international community to intervene in Pakistan after the incident where an angry mob tortured and burned alive a Christian couple killing them after accusing them of committing blasphemy.

Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran described as "barbaric" the act of a mob cornering a man and woman, and beating the two to death when he spoke to Vatican Radio.

The World Council of Churches also condemned the brutal act.

An enraged Muslim on November 4 mob charged an earthenware facility where a Christian couple lived accusing them of blasphemy after it was said the woman burnt Quran pages while cleaning her quarters.

"When something this barbaric happens, one is naturally left speechless," said Tauran, the president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.

"What is even more serious is the specific reference to religion," he continued. "No religion can justify crimes of this kind." The blasphemy law raised the issue of whether the international community should intervene.

Cardinal Tauran said the Church must denounce such violent acts publicly, with consistency and force. He said he hopes Islamic leaders will do the same as Muslims are victimized by these acts of violence as well, as they present a negative image of Islam.

While people's religious beliefs ought to be respected, Tauran underscored the need for continuous dialogue given the predicament of minorities in many places such as in Pakistan.

He pointed out that blasphemy laws such as the one enforced in Pakistan presented a problem not only for Christians but also other minority groups.

Pakistan's blasphemy law carry the death sentence and critics of it say it is frequently used by members of the Muslim majority to settle scores or disagreements with members of minority groups.

"There have been approximately 60 executions since 1990, the year when the blasphemy law came into force," he explained.

"And this does not just affect Christians, other minorities are also targeted: lawyers who oppose the regime, for example, are also barbarically killed. So we are faced with a big problem."

Tauran conceded that the Vatican's hands are bound since the incident is entirely a domestic issue. The closest thing the local church can do is to help lawmakers solve problems by finding creative resolutions.

"Right now we cannot intervene in a country's domestic affairs but we must at least help politicians find human and civilised solutions," Cardinal Tauran said.

World Council of Churches secretary general Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit said in a statement, ""The protection and security of all citizens regardless of their religious affiliation is a core responsibility of the government of Pakistan, as is putting an end to human rights violations and extra-judicial killings.

"To promote tolerance, religious harmony and protection of rights of Christians as well as other religious minorities in Pakistan, it is important to ensure justice," Tveit said.

Peter Prove, director of the WCC's Commission of the Churches on International Affairs said, "This incident appears to be yet another tragic example of how the social environment created by Pakistan's blasphemy laws allows personal disputes and vendettas to be pursued under religious pretexts, encouraging mob violence."

The WCC said media reports indicated that the origins of this incident lay in a financial dispute between the couple and their employer, a local brick kiln owner.

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