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    » 05/15/2009, 00.00

    PAKISTAN

    Swat Valley: Catholics pray for peace as the country faces an exodus of Biblical proportions

    Qaiser Felix

    Unanimously Christians, Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs condemn Taliban violence. In Faisalabad bishop leads a prayer vigil for peace. The number of refugees could reach 1.5 million. Some 60 Christian families find refuge in Peshawar.
    Faisalabad (AsiaNews) – Pakistan Catholics are praying for peace in the Swat Valley and safety for the refugees fleeing fighting between the army and the Taliban. Muslims, Christians, Hindus and Sikhs have condemned the violence by Islamic extremists whilst the country tries to cope with the largest mass exodus in its history.

    Last week the Pakistani government launched what it described as a “final offensive” against Islamist militias holed up in the Swat Valley, blaming them for breaking a peace deal that enabled them to introduce Sharia in the area in exchange for a ceasefire.

    Since Islamic law was implemented the extremists began a violent campaign of persecution against minorities, summarily executing people, blowing up girls’ schools and women’s institutions.

    At present, thousands of people have abandoned Mingora, the Swat Valley’s main town, as well as the neighbouring districts of Kanju and Kabal, after the army lifted a curfew.

    Army sources reported 124 militants and nine soldiers killed in the past 24 hours. That would take the death toll to 870 militants and 45 soldiers. However, this could not be independently verified.

    In the meantime Pakistan’s Catholic community is mobilising in favour of peace. Yesterday more than hundred Catholic women took part in a peace vigil in Faisalabad led by the local bishop, Mgr Joseph Coutts, and Fr Nisar Barkat, director of the National Commission for Justice and Peace.

    Although “prayers are key” for peace, it is important “to condemn extremism,” the prelate said

    When the vigil was over Catholic leaders issued a statement calling on the government to end the military operation as soon as and to help those displaced by the fighting.

    Activists and civil society groups are organising themselves in a sign that civil society is not asleep but is wide awake, raising its voice against he Talibanisation of Pakistan, the bishop noted.

    Mgr Coutts added that he recently attended a meeting organised by NGOs that invited people of different faiths. Christians, Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs were present and together they strongly condemned the Taliban and backed the military in its struggle for peace.

    The ongoing displacement of people is the largest since Pakistan was founded in 1947.

    According to the United Nations agency for refugees about 834,000 internally displaced persons have been registered so far after they fled violence in the Swat Valley, but if the fighting continues the total number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) could top 1.5 million.

    For the UN agency around US$ 5 billion are needed to rehabilitate IDPs in a process that could take up to five years.

    Among the refugees there are some 60 Christian families who fled Taliban persecution following the introduction of Sharia.

    They are currently housed at a shelter set up in Rasalpur, near Peshawar, capital of the North-West Frontier Province.

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    See also

    25/05/2009 PAKISTAN
    Pakistani Christians to fast and pray for peace in Swat Valley
    Taliban and army are engaged in house-to-house fighting in Mingora. UN agency estimates number of refugees tops 2.4 million. Catholic and Protestant religious leaders call for social justice and equality for minorities.

    06/04/2009 PAKISTAN
    Whipping 17-yr girl a “barbaric act”, anger against Taliban mounts
    Protests and demonstrations against Islamic fundamentalist madness are organised in many Pakistani cities. Supreme Court starts hearing to determine who is responsible for whipping the young woman, who refuses to testify fearing retaliations. Extremists reject accusation, claiming the video is a “fake”

    22/05/2008 PAKISTAN
    Government strikes a deal with Taliban, Sharia to be enforced in the northern part of the country
    Under a 15-point agreement the Swat Valley should come under the administrative and legal control of Islamic militias. For the United States and NATO it is a great favour for al-Qaeda. Various Pakistani analysts are sceptical about the deal, which they see as a way to carve up the country.

    24/03/2009 PAKISTAN
    In Taliban-controlled Swat Valley no more NGOs or polio vaccination for children
    The enforcement of Sharia has led to the closing down of NGO offices, the end of polio vaccination for children and left hundreds of lawyers out of a job. Extremist groups plan to demand the implementation of Islamic in every district of the province. Civil society groups and human rights activists are sounding the alarm.

    08/05/2009 PAKISTAN
    Taliban a threat to the whole country, Pakistani PM says
    Prime Minister Gilani says army intervention is the only way to protect peace and the unity of the nation. Army and political parties back prime minister. Human rights commission calls for a task force to cope with refugee emergency.



    Editor's choices

    CHINA - VATICAN
    Vatican silence over Shanghai’s Mgr Ma Daqin causing confusion and controversy

    Bernardo Cervellera

    For some, Mgr Ma’s blog post praising the Patriotic Association and acknowledging his mistakes is nothing but “dirt”. For others, he chose humiliation for the “sake of his diocese”. Many wonder why the Holy See has remained silent about the article’s content and the bishop’s persecution. Some suspect the Vatican views the episode in positive terms. Yet, the Ma Daqin affair raises a major question. Has Benedict XVI’s Letter to Chinese Catholics (which describes the Patriotic Association as “incompatible with Catholic doctrine”) been abolished? If it has, who did it? A journey of compromises without truth is full of risks.


    CHINA – VATICAN
    Mgr Ma Daqin: the text of his “confession”

    Mons. Taddeo Ma Daqin

    Four years after quitting the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, the bishop of Shanghai “admits” his faults on his blog, praising the organisation that controls the Church. We publish his article, almost in its entirety. Translation by AsiaNews.


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