04/18/2014, 00.00
PAKISTAN
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Good Friday in Pakistan: fasting and prayers for Asia Bibi, Sawan Masih and other blasphemy victims

by Jibran Khan
The country's Christian community and civil society groups express closeness to the victims of the "black law". The bishop of Islamabad also expresses his solidarity. Muslim activist joins "our Christian brothers and sisters in Good Friday celebrations." Appeals are made to the government to take "serious steps to fight intolerance and abuse."

Islamabad (AsiaNews) - "Let us dedicate a special prayer for Sawan Masih and Asia Bibi, both on death row on charges of blasphemy. We also urge the community of the faithful to join us in prayer for the marginalised and oppressed," said Mgr Rufin Anthony, bishop of Islamabad/Rawalpindi.

In calling on the faithful to celebrate Good Friday by praying and fasting for the victims of the "black law", the prelate underscored the fact that Pakistan's religious minorities have long been subject to persecution and discrimination because of their faith.

Hence, the country's Christian community, Church leaders and civil society groups have protested against death sentences based on false charges and personal rows.

Asia Bibi, who has been on death row since November 2010 and in solitary confinement for her own safety, has long been a symbol of the struggle against the "black law".

Sawan Masih, a 26-year-old Christian from Lahore, was also sentenced by a lower court on false charges, due to a personal dispute with the man who reported him.

His case led a targeted attack against Christians living in Lahore's Joseph Colony. As a result of the violence, hundreds of homes and two churches were set on fire by Islamic extremists.

This year, Asia Bibi and Sawan Masih will spend Easter holidays away from their families, torn away their loved ones by legal provisions that over time have become a pretext to target minorities.

In a show of solidarity, Muslim activist Mirza Asad Khan said he was joining "our Christian brothers and sisters in Good Friday celebrations, through fasting and prayers in order to build together a path of peace."

In view of this, "We call on the government," he added, "to take serious steps to fight intolerance and abuse of the blasphemy law."

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