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MRG condemns killing of Priyantha Kumara, minority Christian in Pakistan

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Minority Rights Group (MRG) strongly condemns the violent attack and murder of Sri Lankan Christian Priyantha Kumara on allegations of blasphemy in Pakistan last week.

Mr. Kumara was the general manager of a factory in Sialkot and had been living in Pakistan for several years. Violence against him began when he allegedly took down posters that bore the name of the Holy Prophet. Surrounding factory workers accused him of desecrating Islam and committing blasphemy, and a mob swiftly descended on him and tortured him. According to police reports, he was beaten with sticks before being dragged to the road outside the factory and killed. The perpetrators then set his body on fire and took selfies with the remains.

‘This heinous attack is the result of an increase in majoritarian, right-wing rhetoric by far-right extremist political parties, which has fostered a sense of impunity among the majority communities,’ says Claire Thomas, Deputy Director at MRG. ‘The distortion of religion to justify such a condemnable attack is deeply shameful and highlights how the state has failed the country’s minorities.’

Since the attack, the prime minister of Pakistan has taken swift notice and assured the Sri Lankan prime minister that due legal action will be taken. Over a hundred arrests have been made by the Punjab police.

MRG appreciates government efforts to address this case and urges the authorities to bring swift justice to Mr. Kumara’s family. However, minorities in Pakistan have long faced social, economic and political discrimination, as well as violence at the hands of state and non-state actors. There is a long way to go before the deep-seated causes of such religious divides are meaningfully addressed and successfully uprooted, and MRG urges the Pakistani authorities to invest in a sustained, long-term effort to do so.

Not only does this incident highlight the extreme vulnerability of religious minorities in Pakistan, but it also fractures a delicate regional dynamic. South Asian states must stand by each other during such tragic incidents and commit to bringing justice where it is due.

For more information contact press[at]minorityrights.org.

For more background information, read our 2020 report: ‘Pakistan: Pragmatism or Idealism? Advocating against blasphemy laws’. To learn more about our work to support religious pluralism and respect for freedom of religion or belief across South Asia, see here.

Photo: People protesting against blasphemy law in Pakistan. Credit: PTI.

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