World Council of Churches says Pakistani Christians “live in fear”
Christians and other religious minorities in Pakistan live in fear of persecution and even execution or murder on false charges of blasphemy against Islam, the World Council of Churches (WCC) has said. The Council, the Geneva- based global body linking Protestant and Orthodox churches in 110 countries, has called on the Pakistani government to change a law promulgated by military ruler General Zia-ul-Haq that allows for the death penalty for blaspheming Islam.
(Photo: Christians in destroyed home in Gojra, 2 Aug 2009/Mohsin Raza)
Since the law was adopted in 1986 religious minorities in the country have been “living in a state of fear and terror … and many innocent people have lost their lives,” the WCC said in a statement.
Pakistan is an overwhelmingly Muslim country where religious minorities account for roughly 4 percent — three quarters of whom are Christians — of its 170 million people.
In early August, the WCC head, Kenyan Methodist Samuel Kobia, protested to the Pakistani government over violence in Punjab province when Muslims torched Christian homes and 8 people were killed, seven of them burned to death. Reports at the time said the attacks in Gojra town were sparked by allegations, denied by church leaders as well as Pakistani government officials, that Christians had desecrated the Koran.
Pakistani government officials said the violence, which also brought protests from Pope Benedict, was the work of Islamist groups linked to al Qaeda and the country’s Taliban movement.
(Photo: Christians grieve after funerals of Gojra attack victims, 2 Aug 2009/Mohsin Raza)
Charges of oppression of Christians in Pakistan are frequently heard in international meetings such as the WCC session. Complaints often surface at United Nations meetings. What do you think? Are these charges justified?
Before responding, consider the following articles in the international secular and Christian press. Are they accurate? If you think they don’t portray the real situation in Pakistan, how do you think international media should report about the Christian minority in Pakistan?
— Six Christians burnt alive in Pakistan violence (Reuters, 1 Aug 2009)
— Pakistan hurt by killing of Christians: church head (Reuters, 4 Aug 2009)
— Christians demand repeal of blasphemy laws (UCANews, 6 Aug 2009)
— Scrap blasphemy laws which bring shame on Islam and Pakistan, Muslim scholar says (Asianews, 10 Aug 2009)
— Some 20 million Christians to mark ‘black day’ against persecution in Pakistan (Asianews, 11 Aug 2009)
— Violations of human rights in Pakistan: 75% of cases remain unpunished (Asianews, 21 Aug 2009)
— Intolerance is sweeping across Pakistan (The Guardian, 24 Aug 2009)
— Pakistan gains from defending diversity (Daily Star, 24 Aug 2009)
— Punjab: Christian victims of the massacres in Gojra reported by police (Asianews, 25 Aug 2009)
— PAKISTAN: Attacks on Christians Spotlight Blasphemy Laws (IPS, 25 Aug 2009)
— Pakistan: Christians want blasphemy laws repealed (SperoNews, 26 Aug 2009)
— Memo to U.N.: Stop Muslims from killing Christians (WorldNetDaily, 27 Aug 2009)
— Church dissatisfied over slow prosecution of rioters (UCANews, 2 Sept 2009)