A large rally in Pakistan last month backed the murder of an elderly Christian shoemaker accused of blasphemy, with organizers warning that others should expect the same fate, according to Voice of the Martyrs Korea and its partner for Pakistan ministry, UK-based Release International.

2,500 gathered in the city of Sargodha in Punjab Province, where the murder took place in May, to show their support for the killing of 74-year-old Nazeer Masih Gil. The rally, organized by Islamist extremists Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), also protested against the arrest of those accused of killing the Christian shoemaker. 

This latest claim of blasphemy is reportedly the ninth made in Sargodha since 2023.  

Voice of the Martyrs Korea Representative Dr. Hyun Sook Foley says the recent string of blasphemy claims is especially concerning due to the city’s large size and public image. “They call it the ‘California of Pakistan’ due to its beautiful orange plantations,” says Representative Foley. “The citys website says, ‘Individuals of Sargodha are exceptionally tranquil and tolerant’ and ‘Since the formation of Pakistan, not even a solitary time [has there been] battle among individuals of various factions or religion[s].’ Yet this is the city where there have been nine accusations of blasphemy in the past year, where Nazeer Masih Gil was martyred, and where 2,500 people gathered to support his murder and threaten further violence against Christians.”  

According to reports on the rally from Voice of the Martyrs Korea partner Release International, TLP leader Muhammed Naeem Chattha Qadri demanded of the crowd at the June rally, “Tell me if we were wrong in killing that chuhra who burned the Quran?  

Chuhra is a derogatory term for sanitation workers and Christians, according to Release International. 

Qadri added this warning: Whoever commits blasphemy will meet the same fate. According to reports, he then went on to threaten the police if they attempt to protect the blasphemers. 

On May 25, up to 2,000 extremists responded to an accusation broadcast over mosque loudspeakers that Christian Nazeer Masih Gil had burned a copy of the Quran on a bonfire. 

“According to reports from our partner Release International, Nazir’s son tried to reason with the mob, apologizing if his father had mistakenly done anything wrong,” says Representative Foley. “But the mob would not listen.” 

She says members of the mob filmed themselves kicking and beating the elderly Christian until he was unconscious and then looting his shoe factory and ransacking his house. They allegedly posted these videos on social media.  

Our partner, Release International, reported to us that the same mob stoned police when they tried to intervene and hurled bricks at the ambulance when it took Nazeer Masih Gil to the hospital,” says Representative Foley. He died from his injuries nine days later. She said that Nazeer’s widow, who is also in her 70s, was so traumatized that she was unable to speak. 

According to reports from Release International received by Voice of the Martyrs Korea, Nazeer’s son, Sultan, says he believes the attack was motivated not by blasphemy but by jealousy caused by the success of his father’s business, which had resisted many attempts to shut it down.  

In the same province of Punjab last August, a mob attacked a Christian colony in Jaranwala, following blasphemy accusations against Christians,” says Representative Foley, citing reports from Release International. They burned churches and houses. Mercifully, the Christians were able to flee, and no one was killed. 

Martyred Christian shoemaker Nazeer Masih, shown here after the mob attack on May 25 which claimed his life. (Photo from the X account of Bishop Azad Marshall)

Representative Foley notes that there is a troubling history of unsubstantiated accusations of Quran burning against Christians in Pakistan.  

“In February 1997, a mob of more than 30,000 Muslims burned the village and church in Shanti Nagar in the Khanewal District based on a false accusation of Christians burning Qurans there. In November 2005, more than 1,500 Muslims burnt three churches in Sanglahill District, on a similar charge, says Representative Foley. 

Then on Christmas Eve 2020, in Kotli Muhammad Sadique, a small village in Narowal district—which is also in Punjab province, like the latest blasphemy accusations—a mob of over 300 gathered outside a church, demanding that it hand over Christians who allegedly burned pages of a Quran. Police arrived and mistakenly arrested and then beat Ilyas Masih, a poor Christian laborer and father of five children. Under this torture, he then shared the names of three Christian boys who originated the bonfire as part of a holiday celebration but who strongly denied the charges of Quaran burning.” Representative Foley noted that charges against the boys were never substantiated. 

Representative Foley says that Voice of the Martyrs Korea has allocated 10,000,000 KRW to Release International for support of persecuted Christians and their families who choose to stay, or who have no choice but to stay, in settings of persecution in Pakistan. Often when Christians around the world hear about persecuted Christians, their first thought is to help them escape the country to go somewhere safe. But in cases like these in Pakistan where Christians are falsely accused of blasphemy, helping those Christians flee often makes attackers more bold to assault the Christians who remain. It can also make the Christians look guilty and weak, and the witness to the gospel is silenced in the very places where such a witness is sorely needed. Supporting persecuted Christians to stand firm where they are helps make their communities safer for other believers in the future, and it helps make a positive witness for the gospel. But it means we have to be vigilant to stand with them and to share the stories of their faithful, suffering witness around the world. 

Donations to Voice of the Martyrs Korea’s Families of Martyrs and Prisoners (FOM/FOP) fund can be made at or via electronic transfer to: 


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