02/02/2012, 00.00
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Christian human rights activist hurt in attack in Lahore

by Jibran Khan
Shunila Ruth, director of the Talitha Kumi Welfare Centre, was the victim of an attack near her home. Four masked men threatened her of further attacks. Her association defends marginalised women, victims of domestic abuse and rape. Lahore priest blames provincial government for failing to protect minorities.
Lahore (AsiaNews) – Four masked men attacked a Christian human rights activist involved in defending women’s rights in Pakistan. The incident occurred yesterday in Lahore (Punjab) near the woman’s home.

Shunila Ruth, director of the Talitha Kumi Welfare Centre (TKWC), was making her way home when a group of men stopped her, threw against a wall and then pushed her down to the ground. This was followed by threats as they warned her of more to come. At present, the victim is recovering from her wounds in hospital.

Human rights activists and associations are increasingly under siege in Pakistan, especially if they defend religious minorities (Christian or Ahmadi) or women, or if they go after strong vested interests or groups that that respond to criticism with violence.

A few days ago, we reported the case of Waseem Shakir, a human rights activist and district coordinator for the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz in Kot Addu, Muzaffargarh District, who was threatened by police.

Fr Naeem John, from the Archdiocese of Lahore, slammed Shunila Ruth’s attack, calling it a “cowardly act” because it was against a woman.

In response to the incident, he made an appeal to the government of Punjab, even though the latter has “failed to protect the minorities” and has often acted in collusion with their enemies. Case in point: the demolition of a Christian property in Gosh-e-Aman where a Christian woman has had to file an appeal before the High Court in Lahore.

The Talitha Kumi Welfare Centre (TKWC) opened in Lahore in 2001, with support from the Swedish Mission Church, which is closely linked to the Church of Pakistan.

The centre has been fighting for the rights of marginalised women, providing legal aid to the victims of domestic violence, rape and forced marriages.

The organisation had been threatened in the past for its work.
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