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.