05/11/2007, 00.00
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Christians threatened: convert to Islam or die

The same threatening letter was sent to Christian communities in Charsadda and Mardan, ordering the closure of churches and conversion to Islam within 10 days on pain of execution. The police are treating it as a joke. The bishop of Islamabad has expressed deep fear and called for the support of the government the world.

Islamabad (AsiaNews) – Convert to Islam within 10 days and shut down all the country’s churches: the ultimatum was delivered in a threatening letter that Muslim fundamentalists sent to Christian communities in Charsadda and Mardan, in northern Pakistan. If their orders are not obeyed, “all Christians will be executed”.

The letter was sent on 7 May to local churches, who immediately took it to the police. Feroz Shah, district inspector of Charsadda, said he had investigated the matter. For him, it’s a “joke”, and so “there is no need to make any arrests” Christians, he added, “are safe and well protected” in the area.

Mgr Anthony Lobo, bishop of Islamabad-Rawalpindi, does not share the inspector’s view. He told AsiaNews: “This letter is not a joke, but a threat that needs to be taken seriously. It has left the Christian community of Pakistan very frightened. We have already appealed to higher powers in the country to ask for help and we will continue to do so.”

The bishop said it was important “to understand that even jokes, if aimed at minorities, could become reality. Even if this letter is the work of an isolated madman, it’s possible that he may commit some atrocity against Christians.”

The bishop added: “Now we must pray, but we cannot stop at that. We have already protested against this situation of fear and uncertainty and we will continue to do so. In the meantime, I appeal to the world to help us in this dangerous struggle against fundamentalism.”

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