Two top Christian leaders in Pakistan held a press conference at the National Press Club in Islamabad on August 19, demanding constitutional rights that protect religious minorities, especially Christians.
Catholic Archbishop Joseph Arshad of Islamabad-Rawalpindi and Protestant Bishop Humphrey Sarfaraz Peters, Moderator and Primate in the Church of Pakistan, a United Protestant Church, addressed media persons on various issues and concerns that affect Christians, especially in the aftermath of recent attacks on Christians.
Mr. Naeem Yousaf Gill, executive secretary of the Catholic National Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP), joined the prelates at the press conference. The CCJP works for the oppressed and marginalized communities, especially Christians, in Pakistan.
A number of incidents took place in Pakistan's Punjab region, where groups of people identifying as Muslims targeted as many as 21 churches.
Additionally, numerous Christian residences were also subjected to attacks.
These acts of violence were reportedly instigated following allegations of blasphemy against two Christians who were accused of desecrating the Quran.
One of the recent attacks was against Christians living in a residential area in the city of Jaranwala in the Faisalabad district of eastern Pakistan, where most of Jaranwala’s 17 churches had been attacked.
The church in Pakistan has been at the service of the country through its education, healthcare, and social development activities in different parts with commitment. It is unfair that some vested interests keep on attacking Christians and churches, often with false propaganda, said Catholic Archbishop Arshad of Islamabad-Rawalpindi.
Besides, every time the country faces any type of natural or man-made tragedy, the church is always at the forefront with its services of relief and rehabilitation, he said.
Due to the recent incidents in the Jaranwala area, Christians have fled to other places for their safety and security. It is time for Christians, Arshad said.
"We all need to respect each other’s religion and live in peace and harmony," the church leader added.
Meanwhile, Protestant Bishop Peters said, "We demand the constitutional rights that protect Christians and others."
The latest attacks have caused significant concern and anguish within the Christian community.
According to Peters, Christians in Pakistan express a need for justice and intervention from law enforcement and justice dispensers, alongside the assurance of safety for all people. The individual emphasizes the urgency of quick action to affirm the value of Christian life in the country.
Every now and then, Christians are subjected to various forms of attack over the decades.
In a recent incident, a Sri Lankan individual was subjected to accusations of blasphemy, leading to their untimely demise at the hands of a furious mob, which proceeded to immolate the deceased's body.
In 2009, a collective perpetrated the act of arson, resulting in the destruction of around 60 residential properties and the loss of six human lives inside the Gorja area located in Punjab. The motivation behind this violent act was the group's accusation that the victims had committed acts deemed disrespectful to the Islamic faith.
The blasphemy law in Pakistan was adopted during the 19th century, having been inherited from the British colonial administration. During the 1980s, the government of Islamabad implemented more stringent sanctions, which encompassed the imposition of capital punishment for acts deemed derogatory to the Islamic faith.
Since blasphemy is now a capital offense in Pakistan, there has been an increase in religiously motivated violence there.
Due to growing economic inequities, Pakistani society has become more fragmented, which has increased violence toward religious minorities.
Approximately 96% of the population in Pakistan adheres to the Islamic faith. In addition to Iran, Brunei, and Mauritania, several other nations also enforce the imposition of an execution sentence as a legal consequence for the act of insulting religion.- Santosh Digal
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