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  • » 11/05/2009, 00.00


    Blasphemy legislation strikes minorities and Islamises the country, Pakistan priest says

    The Taliban want to destroy democracy and spread a fundamentalist ideology, Fr Bonnie Mendes says. A small fringe is fighting extremism, but they have “no unity of intent.” Christians live in an atmosphere of fear, but are urged to be stronger.
    Rome (AsiaNews) – Blasphemy laws are a means fundamentalists use to hit the “country’s minorities and those who do not submit to their will,” Fr Bonnie Mendes told AsiaNews. The clergyman and human rights activist is currently in Italy as coordinator for Caritas Asia. He denounces a “specific plan to attack anywhere anytime in order to Islamise Pakistan.”

    Last week, AsiaNews launched an awareness campaign about Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, which impose life in prison or the death penalty on anyone who desecrates the Qur‘an or defiles the name of the Prophet Muhammad.

    Father Mendes, 70, knows Pakistan’s history very well, and is quite conscious of how a fundamentalist ideology is spreading across the country.  

    He remembers very well remarks made a few months ago by Sufi Muhammad, spiritual guide to the Tahrik-e-Nifaz Shariat Muhammadi (TNSM) movement, whose goal is to “destroy democracy in the world.”

    “Extremism is not only a problem for the Pakistani government but is a global problem that must be faced globally,” he said.

    About 25 per cent of the population sympathises with the Taliban. Even “they have even infiltrated the army and the political system.”

    “They put fear into people because of the ongoing violence,” which strikes at the heart of cities, offices, police stations and ordinary people.

    “There are people in government who want to change the situation but they lack unity of purpose,” the priest lamented.

    Father Mendes, a former executive secretary for the Catholic Church of Pakistan’s National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP), is also critical of the court system, which sits in judgment in blasphemy cases.

    “Widespread corruption is the first problem,” he said. “The government however is unable to uproot it. In blasphemy cases, judges are usually Muslim who, fearing for their safety, dare not openly oppose the enforcement of the law.”

    However, there are small signs of home. Some fringes within the ruling political class “want change”. Even among Muslim religious leaders, “some voices are emerging against the blasphemy laws.”

    “For the first time, there is a part of the country that wants to fight discriminatory laws; even ordinary folks have come to realise that it is important to fight the Taliban,” he said.

    Finally, even if the Christian minority lives in “an atmosphere of fear”, Fr Mendes urges the faithful and the Church to “do more to deal with daily challenges” like persecution, poverty and Pakistan’s progress.

    “It is important to see strong Christian journalists, intellectuals and public figures emerge,” he said, “conscious of their national mission and able to make themselves heard.” (DS)

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    See also

    27/02/2008 PAKISTAN
    Islamic extremists arrested for the murder of seven Christians
    Karachi police detains three Muslim fundamentalists who are members of the ‘Tehreek-e-Islami Lashkar-e-Mohammadi.’ At the time of the murders in 2002 the local press and some police officials had said that they were the result of in-fighting among Christians.

    07/01/2009 PAKISTAN
    “Believers from every religion should build a world of peace,” says Pakistani bishop
    Inspired by Benedict XVI’s message for World Day of peace, Mgr Joseph Coutts reiterates that wars are a problem for the whole of humanity, requiring a shared response. The prelate calls for prayers in favour of peace and hopes for a greater involvement of the United Nations, the European Union and the Organisation of the Islamic Conference in solving conflicts.

    01/08/2016 15:12:00 PAKISTAN - WYD
    The Church in Pakistan must learn from the young people who went to Krakow

    The youth who travelled to Poland had trouble getting visas. But in the coming days they will return to Pakistan and can be an example for all Catholics. The priest invites the Church leaders to prepare ahead of the next World Youth Day.

    09/01/2012 PAKISTAN
    Faisalabad celebrating 50 years of priesthood of Fr Bonnie Mendes
    Active in the field of human rights and interreligious dialogue, he is an example for all Catholics in Pakistan. He defines his mission "received as a precious gift from God." Over a thousand people at a Mass of thanksgiving. Bishop Coutts: how John the Baptist prepared the way for others.

    11/07/2006 PAKISTAN
    Christian kiln workers beaten
    Father Mendes denounces the "inhuman and immoral" treatment workers receive. Catholic NGO calls on the government to intervene.

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