Two Christians were reported shot dead by Muslims in Pakistan last week following a property dispute that “turned religious,” said rights group International Christian Concern (ICC).
“We are … troubled by yet another incident of deadly violence motivated by the widespread intolerance that exists against Christians in Pakistan,” said William Stark, ICC regional manager for South Asia, in a statement.
The two Christians were gunned down by a mob of Muslims in what ICC described as a consequence of “unchecked religious intolerance against minorities” in the country.
On October 8, Yaqoob Masih and his brother, Haroon Masih, were shot and killed by a mob of Muslims in Village #2A in Okara District.
Witnesses said the attack was a result of a property dispute that turned religious between Christians and Muslims.
“A Muslim family had religious hatred against us and other Christians living in the village,” Indriyas Masih, an eyewitness and survivor of the attack, told ICC.
“They never like the development of Christians in the village and therefore opposed us in getting a contract for a piece of land for cultivation,” he added.
He said local Muslims were annoyed that the Christians applied to lease six acres of land for cultivation.
After several months of arguments, local authorities settled the matter and awarded the lease of the land to the Christians.
On the day of the incident, five Christians went to the fields for irrigation work when a mob of over two dozen armed men attacked, resulting in the killing of Yaqoob and Haroon.
Indriyas said the armed mob shouted anti-Christian slogans as they opened fire on the Christians.
“The Christians are treated as slaves bounded to Muslims,” said Asif Muniwar, a local human rights defender, in the ICC report.
“Christians enjoy no rights, no dignity, and no protection in this country. The overall system of society is based on religious hatred against Christians and other minorities,” he said.
“The government must take practical steps to provide security for Christians and ensure justice for the Okara victims and their families,” Muniwar said.
“Pakistan must do more to combat the extremism and intolerance that motivates anti-Christian incidents like this,” said ICC’s Stark.
“No one should be treated as a second-class citizen simply because of the faith they profess,” he said.
Disputes between Muslim and Christian communities in Pakistan often turn violent due to religious intolerance and widespread discrimination against religious minorities.
ICC said that in many cases, false accusations of blasphemy are used against Pakistani Christians to settle persecution scores or incite incidents of religious hatred.
Pakistani Christians make up only 1.6 percent of the country’s population.