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Militants kill 6 aid workers in Pakistan

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–The persecution of Christians continues to intensify in Pakistan, where six employees of the Christian humanitarian organization World Vision have been murdered by militants and the country’s blasphemy laws are being used to fine and imprison Christians.

The attack on World Vision’s office in northwestern Pakistan’s Mansehra region was carried out by more than a dozen gunmen who stormed the facility March 10, spraying the room with gunfire, herded surviving employees into another room, then taking them out one at a time and executing them, according to news reports. At least five employees were injured, in addition to the six who were killed.

Elsewhere in the country, in the past two weeks a Christian couple was sentenced to 25 years in prison and a man was given a life sentence for allegedly violating Pakistan’s “blasphemy” laws — both reportedly without any basis to the charges.

In eastern Pakistan’s Kasur region, Ruqqiya Bibi and her husband Munir Masih were sentenced March 3 to 25 years in prison, according to the Compass Direct news service. The pair had been arrested in December 2008 on charges of touching the Quran, Islam’s sacred book, without ritually washing, after an incident that began as a quarrel between Muslim and Christian children and escalated into a clash of their parents. In Karachi, the largest city in southern Pakistan, a court on Feb. 25 sentenced Qamar David to 25 years in prison and a fine equivalent to $1,170 after he was convicted of sending blasphemous text messages in May 2006 -– even though all 16 witnesses at the trial said it was the Muslim owner of the cell phone who sent the messages. The owner, Munawar Ahmad, was absolved of all charges, Compass Direct reported.

Pakistan’s blasphemy laws are commonly used by Muslims to settle grudges against Christians.

The World Vision office in Mansehra region had been opened to help victims of a 2005 earthquake that killed more than 70,000 people and left 3.5 million homeless. World Vision suspended its operations in Pakistan after the attack. Militants in Pakistan consider humanitarian groups to be outside intruders that spread Western values among residents.

“It was a brutal and senseless attack,” World Vision spokesman Dean Owen told the Associated Press. “It was completely unexpected, unannounced and unprovoked.”

A police spokesman blamed the attack on “the same people who are destroying our schools” — a reference to Taliban militants who have blown up hundreds of schools across the northwest in the past three years because they oppose the education of girls, Compass Direct reported.
Compiled by Baptist Press assistant editor Mark Kelly.

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