06/18/2012, 00.00
PAKISTAN

Lahore; hundreds of Christians and Muslims rally for Asma Jahangir

Shafique Khokhar
The well-known human rights activist receives death threats. "I devoted my life to marginalised and oppressed people," Asma Jahangir said, "I will not be deterred." Politicians, religious leaders and members of civil society come out in a show of solidarity. NCJP leaders call on the authorities to guarantee her safety. "[W]e are all with her," Peter Jacob said.

Lahore (AsiaNews) - Church leaders and representatives of Pakistan's Christian community joined the Joint Action Committee for Human Rights in Lahore in a show of solidarity with Asma Jahangir, the well-known human rights activist who has fought for the weak and marginalised in society. In recent days, she received death threats from extremist groups.

Personal attacks against someone with her high and positive profile have generated panic among civil society actors, lawyers and human rights defenders. However, "I devoted my life to marginalised and oppressed people," Asma Jahangir said. "If these threats are intended to make me stay at home, rest assured I will not be deterred."

Before the rally, a conference was held on Friday at the Aiwan-i-Iqbal in Lahore. It drew more than 700 Muslims and Christians, lay people and religious, prominent political leaders and representatives of about 30 civil society organisations and movements including the National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP) of the Catholic Church as well as the Women Action Forum and the All Pakistan Minorities Alliance.

Fr Emmanuel Yousaf Mani and NCJP Executive Director Peter Jacob condemned the threats, asking the authorities to find out who is behind them and to ensure Jahangir's safety.

Fr Mani gave assurances that the Catholic community would support and pray for her and encourage her "noble cause". The clergyman mentioned her fight for the abolition of the blasphemy law and her action on behalf of the victims of the 'black law'.

Echoing his sentiments, Peter Jacob praised the human rights activist for her "four decades of struggle" in favour of "the rights of all citizens," especially "the marginalised and dispossessed".

"I assure Asma," he added, "that we are all with her and that we will never step back at the time of sacrifices. We are ready to lay down our lives for her."

Alyas Rahmat, a young Christian who is also the director of Chanan Development Association, told AsiaNews, "All of us human rights activists are under threat and we face dozens of challenges."

Asma's case came to the fore because of her "international reputation" as a "courageous woman" devoted to the cause. She is "a model and a source of inspiration" for others.

Balochistan Senator Asif Jonaijo recounted Jahangir's campaign on behalf of missing people in the province and her work in favour of peace and interreligious harmony.

 (Joseph Laldin contributed to the article.)

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