A lynch mob has battered a Christian man to death in Pakistan then burned his body while taking selfies of themselves on their mobile phones.
Priyantha Kumara Diyawadana, the manager of a garment factory in Sialkot, was accused by Muslim colleagues of blasphemy after he asked them to remove stickers with passages from the Koran from factory machines before a foreign delegation arrived.
A mob gathered throughout the day after he was accused personally of throwing the stickers in a waste paper bin.
He died of severe brain injuries after the mob beat him so severely, some using bricks and iron bars, that almost every bone in his body was broken.
They burned his body using tyres to increase the size and intensity of the fire while chanting Islamic slogans such “Labaik Ya Rasool Allah” (Here I am at your service, O Messenger of Allah).
The murder of the Sri Lankan in Sialkot, Punjab, was denounced by the Pakistani Catholic bishops and the National (Catholic) Commission for Justice and Peace.
“We condemn the killing of the Sri Lankan citizen in Sialkot in a mob attack after he was accused of blasphemy,” they said in a joint statement sent to Aid to the Church in Need, the Catholic charity supporting persecuted Christians.
“We urge the government to take every measure to bring all the culprits to justice and demand that the government take concrete steps to stop the continuous misuse of the blasphemy laws,” the statement said.
“Lack of accountability of those who incite violence have added to this inhuman trend that paints the picture of Pakistan as a violent society.”
The statement was signed by Bishop Samson Shukardin of Hyderabad, chair of the NCJP; Archbishop Joseph Arshad of Islamabad/Rawalpindi, president of the Pakistani bishops’ conference, and Fr Emmanual Yousaf ‘Mani’, national director of NCJP.
Fr James Channan, the provincial of the Dominican Order in Pakistan, also condemned the murder.
He said: “The ghastly murder of an innocent man under a false accusation of blasphemy, and then the lynching of his body in the road, brings shame to Pakistan. All of us are under deep shock.
“This barbaric killing is a crime against humanity. No religion of the world teaches such kind of killing and disgrace of a human person. This extremism in the name of religion should not be tolerated by the government and law enforcing agencies.
“Justice must be done and seen.”
He added: “We express solidarity and consolation with the family of Priyantha as well as the government of Sri Lanka.”
Mr Diyawadana worked as general manager of a factory of the industrial engineering company Rajco Industries.
Films shared across social media show him thrown on to the floor while hundreds of people attempt to attack him.
At least 50 people have since been arrested and more arrests are likely, according to Pakistani police.
Christians face daily persecution in Pakistan and often an accusation of blasphemy is enough to incite a lynch mob or prompt authorities to make an arrest.
One of the most famous victims of false accusations was Asia Bibi, who was condemned to death on a trumped-up charge of blasphemy but later reprieved and flown to Canada.
Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan described the murder of Mr Diyawadana as “a day of shame for Pakistan”.
One of the most infamous lynchings in Pakistan was that of Christian married couple Shama and Shahzad who were accused of blasphemy in 2014.
Shama had been raped by a Muslim landlord, leading the pair to seek freedom from their indentured labour slavery contract, which resulted in them being locked into a storehouse on a field.
They were then accused them of blasphemy and led a 3,000 strong mob attacked them. Shama was raped again, this time in front of her husband, before they were beaten almost to death. Then their legs were broken on a brick kiln fire and burned alive as their children watched.
(Picture courtesy of the British Asian Christian Association)
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