Pak Christians shut schools in Gojra following killings

ISLAMABAD – The Christian community in the town of Gojra has closed all schools and colleges in the area for three days as a mark of respect for the eight persons killed in riots on Saturday.

Hundreds of Muslims, apparently spurred by a banned militant group, stormed a Christian neighbourhood in the eastern city of Gojra on Saturday, burning dozens of houses after reports surfaced that some Christians had desecrated a Quran.

Six Christians died in flames, while two were killed by gunshots. Christian leaders and Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah said an initial probe had debunked the Quran defilement rumour.

The clashes between the Muslims and Christians began Thursday after reports that a copy of the Quran had been defiled. Hundreds of Muslim protesters set fire to several Christians’ houses in the first two days, but the violence reached its peak Saturday.

“We are closing the schools to show our anger and concern,” the dawn quoted Bishop Sadiq Daniel, as saying.

“We want the government to bring all perpetrators of the crime to justice,” he added.

Federal Minister for Minorities Shahbaz Bhatti said the attackers belonged to a banned Sunni Muslim extremist group, Sipah-i-Sahaba.

Paramilitary troops and other security forces were patrolling the city Monday.

Farhatullah Babar, a spokesman for Pakistan’s president, said a judicial panel will probe the incident.

Christians and Muslims usually live together peacefully in Pakistan, which is overwhelmingly Muslim.

However, Christians and other minority religious groups are vulnerable to discriminatory laws, including an edict against blasphemy that carries death penalty for derogatory remarks or any other action against Islam, the Quran or the Prophet Muhammad. Anyone can make an accusation under the law, and it is often used to settle personal scores and rivalries. (ANI)