United Nations called to investigate horrific murder of pregnant Christian woman and her husband in Pakistan

A Pakistani man works on a brick kiln.REUTERS/Jahangir Khan

Christians around the world have been shocked by the brutal murder of a pregnant Christian woman and her husband in Pakistan.

Shama Bibi, who was four months pregnant, and her husband Shahbaz Masih were killed by a mob of radical Muslims before being dumped and incinerated in a brick kiln.

The couple were bonded labourers at the brick kiln where they were killed near Kot Radha Kishan village, Punjab province, 28 miles south of Lahore.

They were killed on 4 November after being accused of burning pages of the Koran, and Aid to the Church in Need said there were reports that Masih, although badly injured, was still alive when he was thrown into the kiln.

According to ACN, police reports stated that the mob which attacked them was around 2,000-strong, although some estimates put the figure at 4,000.

Senior Dominican Fr James Channan has called their murder the worst religiously motivated hate crime in Pakistan's history.

He told ACN the United Nations should condemn the murder and launch an investigation into this and other crimes committed as a result of the country's blasphemy laws.

Fr Channan said Muslims and Christians alike were being "victimised" by the blasphemy laws, which carry the death sentence for defaming or insulting the Prophet Muhammad, and life imprisonment for desecrating the Koran.

"The problem with these laws is that most often they are used to settle personal scores, such [as] business disputes," he said.

"In any case, who in their sound mind would burn pages of the Qur'an or insult the dignity of the Prophet Mohammed?"

He said the blasphemy laws are "very easily abused" because they are so "vague" and most Pakistanis are illiterate.

An accusation of blasphemy in Pakistan often has violent consequences, with radicals taking the law into their own hands while the police do little to restrain them.

Fr Channan said: "The Christian community is most vulnerable, since an accusation levelled against a single individual can provoke violence aimed at his or her family as well as the entire local community.

"Homes are attached, churches are burned down and people are killed."

He continued: "These laws are so dangerous that once a person is accused his or her life in Pakistan has become impossible.

"Even if the courts eventually declare an individual innocent, radical Muslims may still murder the person, which is considered an act worthy of praise."

The Dominican called on the international community to exert pressure on the government of Pakistan.

"The UN should get involved and condemn such crimes against humanity, while appointing fact-finding commissions to investigate matters on the ground," he said.

"These are but some of the measures that may help to put an end to such barbaric acts as the cruel killing of the Christian couple and their unborn child."