Church leaders condemn murder of Pakistan minister

The two most senior figures in the Church of England have strongly condemned the murder of a Pakistan minister.

The Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams and the Archbishop of York Dr John Sentamu said the murder of Shahbaz Bhatti increased anxiety about the safety of Christians and other religious minorities in Pakistan.

Mr Bhatti, the minister for religious minorities in Pakistan, a Christian and a critic of Pakistan's blasphemy laws, was shot dead today by gunmen on his way to a cabinet meeting in Islamabad.

His death comes two months after the murder of Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer, who had also called for reform in Pakistan's blasphemy laws.

Dr Williams and Dr Sentamu expressed the "greatest shock and sorrow" over the assassination.

"This further instance of sectarian bigotry and violence will increase anxiety worldwide about the security of Christians and other religious minorities in Pakistan, and we urge that the government of Pakistan will do all in its power to bring to justice those guilty of such crimes and to give adequate protection to minorities," they said.

"Meanwhile, we assure Mr Bhatti's family of our prayers and deep sympathy, and promise our continuing support for all those of whatever faiths who are working for justice and stability in Pakistan."