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    » 08/11/2009, 00.00


    Some 20 million Christians to mark ‘black day’ against persecution in Pakistan

    Fareed Khan

    Activists, minority lawmakers and religious leaders are united in peaceful protest against the country’s blasphemy laws. This is their response to fundamentalist attacks and their way to get the Pakistan government to repeal the laws. Amnesty International backs the fight for minority rights in Pakistan.
    Lahore (AsiaNews) – Today is a ‘black day’, a day of protest for some 20 million Christians in Pakistan and around the world who want the country’s blasphemy laws repealed for being a virtual “constitutional genocide”. The event will include a number of actions promoted by religious leaders and activists across the country as a way to respond to attacks by fundamentalists.

    As part of this Nazir S Bhatti, president of the Pakistan Christian Congress (PCC), launched an appeal to the US government and the European Union to press upon the Pakistani government the need to repeal the blasphemy law and ensure the peace and safety of the country’s Christian community. For him today is not ‘Minority Day’ as announced by the government but a “black day’ to mark anti-Christian violence.

    For Peter Jacob, executive secretary of the Catholic Church’s National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP), a number of additional initiatives are planned over the next few days, involving a variety of Christian groups as well as activists and leading members of civil society.

    Today for instance minority lawmakers and administrators will attend prayer meetings and religious functions.

    Tomorrow evening all Christian denominations will take part in a memorial Mass in Lahore’s Naulakha Church to honour the victims of the Gojra massacre.

    On 18 August civil society groups will hold a protest in Lahore against religious extremism and the blasphemy laws.

    The NCJP is planning a seminar on ‘Extremism and the Law’ for tomorrow and has launched a signature campaign to repeal the blasphemy laws.

    In a recent statement Amnesty International has expressed its support for Pakistani Christians.

    In its press release the human rights organisation called on the authorities in Islamabad to “to take meaningful action to protect religious minorities which have increasingly been the target of religiously-motivated attacks and persecution.”

    “To this end,” the statement said, “the Pakistan government should introduce a comprehensive education programme, at all levels of society, which promotes equality and respect for the diversity of beliefs in Pakistan”.

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    See also

    03/11/2004 PAKISTAN
    Blasphemy law: death threats against teenage girl forces family to flee

    14/09/2005 PAKISTAN
    Lahore Archbishop condemns the umpteenth arrest of a Christian for blasphemy

    Younis Masih was imprisoned on Sunday, accused of offending Mohammed in some traditional songs. Mgr Saldanha: these episodes stand in the way of endeavours towards inter-religious dialogue

    04/02/2005 PAKISTAN
    New cases of violence and torture against Pakistani Christians
    Instead of investigating, local authorities engage in cover-ups. In some cases, international organisations ignore the plight of Christians.

    15/09/2009 PAKISTAN
    Punjab: young Christian man accused of blasphemy killed in prison
    Fanish, 20, was arrested last Saturday. His death was “judicial murder” according to human rights activist. The day before a Muslim mob attacked members of the dead man’s Christian community, setting fire to their church. Pakistani extremists are funded by Saudi “charities.”

    17/09/2009 PAKISTAN
    Collusion between police and extremists cause of deaths in judicial custody, Pakistani NGO says
    A human rights group expresses concern over “increasing incidents of violence” against religious minorities. Fanatics enjoy impunity thanks to complicitous prison guards. The government is blamed for not prosecuting people responsible for such crimes. Police has not yet registered a first information report on the murder of a 20-year-old Christian man in Sialkot prison.

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