From the Barnabas Fund:
Two young Christian men accused of blasphemy were shot dead by masked attackers as they left court in Faisalabad, Pakistan, prompting an outbreak of violence.
Brothers Rashid Emmanuel, a pastor, and Sajid Emmanuel, a graduate student, were killed at 2pm on 19 July as police were transporting them to jail. A police inspector who was escorting the brothers, who were both in their 20s, was injured. The gunmen fled the scene.
Local Christians took to the streets in protest over the incident, prompting calls from mosques for Muslims to come out to “fight rampaging” Christians. Shops were looted, and vehicles and homes were vandalised in the Emmanuel brothers’ native Daud Nagar, with at least ten people reported injured.
A Barnabas Fund partner in Faisalabad said: “The Christian community is devastated by the shocking daylight murder of these two young Christian brothers. People are now living in fear about what further attacks believers may face in this latest wave of anti-Christian violence. There is no respect for the court and we feel powerless to defend ourselves. The Emmanuel brothers were dearly loved and respected for their faithful work for the Lord in Faisalabad.”
It was the brothers’ first court appearance after being detained earlier this month on blasphemy charges. They were accused of producing a handwritten pamphlet defiling Muhammad but the court heard from police that there was no evidence to support the charge. A report from a handwriting expert found that the writing on the pamphlet did not match that of either of the accused.
A mob of thousands of Muslim protesters in the majority-Christian Faisalabad area where the brothers lived had demanded the death sentence for them on 10 and 11 July, forcing many families to flee for their safety. But rumours spread on 18 July that the brothers would be found innocent and released.