A Christian woman sorts through burned religious books in her house in Gojra in 2009 after it was attacked by Muslims.

GOJRA, PAKISTAN – Two Muslims have apologised for an anti-Christian rampage in the Punjab city of Gojra two years ago that left 10 Catholics dead.

At an interfaith seminar at Sacred Heart Church in Gojra on Aug 1, marking the second anniversary of the incident, two Sufi masters expressed regret for the violence, saying it went against the “spirit of Islam”, reported the Asian Church news agency UCA News.

In August 2009, hundreds of Muslims rioted in Gojra and a nearby village, torching buildings and attacking inhabitants. Authorities said the violence was fuelled by a false rumour that a Qur’an had been desecrated.

The anti-terrorism court in Faisalabad in June acquitted all 70 people arrested in connection with the attacks.

Fr Aftab James Paul, director of Faisalabad diocese’s Commission for Interfaith Dialogue and Ecumenism, described the apology as “hugely significant”.

In an interview with the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, he said: “Even though they weren’t in any way involved in what happened that day, the peer Sufis [Sufi masters] described Islam as a religion that does not condone killing and condemned the massacre.”

Sufism, to its adherents, is the inner, mystical dimension of Islam.

The priest said the bereaved community welcomed the remarks.

Nevertheless, anger still runs high. Mr Naveed Masih spent more than four months in prison for fighting the attackers. The former boxer now sells liquor to earn a living. “It affected my career. We were attacked by terrorists and arrested by authorities,” he said. - CNS

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