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    » 02/28/2008, 00.00

    PAKISTAN

    A new wave of extremism falling on Christians, says Mgr Saldanha



    The archbishop of Lahore, who chairs the Bishops’ Conference of Pakistan, speaks out on new forms of violence against the country’s minorities: forced conversions, abductions and discrimination. He appeals to the government to protect Christians and treat them like other ordinary citizens.

    Lahore (AsiaNews) – The chairman of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Pakistan, Mgr Lawrence John Saldanha, has called on the government to protect Christians from a new wave of violence that is falling on them. He stressed that the constitution protects freedom of religion and that the authorities are duty-bound to do something to stop threats and attempts by Muslim extremists to force the nation’s minorities to convert.

    In an interview with Aid to the Church in Need he lamented the growing “hatred and intolerance” of militant groups. Their repeated attempts to force Christians to convert to Islam are not only violent in nature but also contravene the principles guaranteed in Pakistan's constitution.

    For the archbishop of Lahore, the story of a young Catholic man is a case in point. The father of four was abducted last month by militants from Jamaat-ul-Dawah, an extremist group deemed terrorist. He was tortured in order to force him to become Muslim.

    His case “underlines the difficulties and pressures of living in a land where extremism is growing,” where “there is little tolerance for people who are non-Muslims,” in particular for “Christians who live in remote and isolated towns [. . .]. Here the level of hatred and intolerance is even more intense.”

    What is more distressing is the plight of Christian girls who are abducted and forced to marry their captors and change their religion.

    This is something that has never happened before. We Christians are citizens, just like everyone else, and wish to have the same rights,” he said.  But sadly these events show what can happen when intolerance takes hold of an entire country.

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    See also

    05/06/2008 PAKISTAN
    Pakistani Church urges government to uphold the constitution against extremism
    In a press statement issued by the National Commission for Justice and Peace, Church leaders call on the government to amend the constitution to fight discrimination and religious intolerance. They also express support for the judges sacked by Musharraf.

    18/09/2006 PAKISTAN
    Pope only wants inter-faith harmony, Pakistani bishops say
    Mgr Saldanha, chairman of the Bishops' Conference of Pakistan, calls Benedict XVI's clarification "a positive and courageous step" and hopes that the unfortunate incident would not negatively affect relations between Muslims and Christians.

    29/03/2005 PAKISTAN
    Phone companies not allowed to hire women operators in Haripur
    Authorities force companies to fire women phone operators. This confirms Pakistani government discriminates against minorities and favours religious extremists.

    03/04/2008 PAKISTAN
    Pakistani Church welcomes new government, hopes for real reforms
    In a press release the National Commission for Justice and Peace expresses appreciation for the efforts of the new government, urging it to uphold both an independent justice system and the principle of religious freedom. The Commission also urges ordinary citizens to help the government meet its challenges.

    08/09/2004 PAKISTAN
    Bishop Saldanha in Mariamabad says no to attacks against life and the family

    A local Christian politician gets public funds to build a road to Marian shrine.





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