Friday, January 20, 2012

Pakistani Bishops call for change in laws to protect Christians

A Catholic member of the Pakistani parliament, Michael Shind, is speaking out against the unacceptable treatment of Christians in his country, largely as a result of the country's anti-blasphemy law.

The Vatican Insider summarized the situation in Pakistan (emphases original):
Children raped and tortured, families extorted, abuse and violence taking place at the expense of terrified victims who remain silent: this is the reality of what is happening to the Christian community in some suburban quarters of Karachi, Southern Pakistan’s biggest city and the capital of the Sindh province.
The Agenzia Fides recently reported that
In 2011, because of the "black law" (composed of the articles 295b and 295c of the Penal Code), at least 161 people were indicted and 9 were killed with extrajudicial executions, the victims of blasphemy accusations. Such accusations, said a Muslim lawyer recently, anonymous for security reasons, "are false in 95% of cases".
In the same article, the Agenzia Fides summarized the findings of the Asian Human Rights Commission regarding the situation in Pakistan during the year 2011:
The year 2011 saw the killing of high profile personalities, such as the governor of Punjab, Salman Taseer and the Federal Minister for minorities, Shabhaz Bhatti, "murders committed by religious extremist groups infiltrated in the police force", notes the Commission. "The state played an ambiguous role to appease the religious extremism and remained a silent spectator of such killings" is what is underlined. "This government's ineptitude - the text continues - has favored forced conversion to Islam of girls from minority religious groups: in total, in 2011, about 1,800 girls between Hindus and Christians, were forced to convert to Islam, with means such as kidnapping and rape".
The Report, recalling the 161 indicted and 9 killed for "blasphemy", notes that "the government has not made any progress on the draconian blasphemy law, which has cost many lives". "Authorities -it states - have taken on, in secret, a paternalistic attitude towards the militant groups. The courts have proven to be friends of the militants and terrorists. In many cases the terrorists were released by the courts, under the guise of formal or procedural deficiencies". The text also mentions hundreds of "honor killing" deaths, the increase in sectarian violence in Karachi (1,800 deaths in 2011) and Baluchistan (225 deaths, more than 6,000 missing).
In light of this, Justice and Peace Commission of the Episcopal Conference of Pakistan issued a statement to the Pakistani government's Federal Ministry for Human Rights calling for  "changes in the Constitution and laws and policies to ensure the restoration of civil, political, social, cultural and economic rights to minorities."
At the same time, the commission also condemned the Pakistani government's recent seizure of Christian lands in Punjab, which some 2,000 Christians recently protested.

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