One of our tasks as The Voice of the Martyrs is to give a voice to the persecuted church. The following is an official statement by the Church of Pakistan in response to the recent attacks on Christians in their country.
A statement by the Church of Pakistan
Adopted by the Executive Committee of the Synod: Church of Pakistan, at its meeting on 21 October, 2009, at Murree
The recent tragedy of Gojra, where nine Pakistani Christians were burnt to death by a frenzied mob, has raised yet again the whole issue of the status and security of the religious minorities in an overwhelmingly Islamic country like Pakistan. This incident has highlighted in a very painful and tragic way, the experiences of Pakistani Christians, who so often are victimized under the false pretext of either having desecrated the Holy Quran or insulting the holy Prophet of Islam. Such cases have become rampant during the recent decades as the Pakistani society has become increasingly intolerant of fellow Pakistanis, based on their religious identity. This attitude has been sharply accentuated by the new clauses into the Blasphemy Law, which is being blatantly and maliciously abused for the harassment and marginalization of Christians, it is overwhelmingly evident that almost all such cases arise out of personal disputes and malice or to gain some political points or even for some sinister covert operations. All this of course has created a deep sense of insecurity, anxiety and fear amongst the Christian community, especially in vulnerable places like remote villages and 'bastis'. The most alarming whisper that is going around within these communities is the acquisition of some personal firearms for self-protection. This of course cannot be encouraged or supported under any conditions, but it does show the extreme tension under which these communities are living and of course it falls upon all of us to redeem their situation.
It is very sad to say that the motivation and the impetus for such actions come from the exploitation of faith and thus religion is used as a 'red rag' to incite the masses. These incidents have almost become a continuum and sadly almost all such cases are decided by the 'lynch mobs' which results in the burning of properties and public killing of victims. Unfortunately, it seems that the 'genie' is out of the bottle and the bull is on the rampage. The challenge before us is as to how do we contain this situation and lead it towards its healing and restoration, We the Church of Pakistan on behalf of all the Christians of Pakistan:
- Call upon the Government of Pakistan to implement and introduce effective legislative and administrative measures, which would contain and control the situation. This concerns especially the repeal of the Blasphemy Law which seems to have become a tool for ultimate abuse of any civil law and even a curse for the religious minorities.
- The Policing of such incidents is invariably high-handed and malicious regarding the victims and very often prejudicial in favor of the majority community (Ref: the killing of Christian youth in judicial custody in Sumbrial case), The administration of Justice in such cases especially in the lower Courts also requires strict monitoring and accountability procedures, as they often succumb to outside influences.
- We further urge the Authorities to legislate such positive and affirmative actions which would redress the prevailing inequality being experienced by the Christians of Pakistan, especially in the job market and the public sector at large.
- We strongly demand of the Political Parties to resist all temptations to use the 'religion card' for political gains and instead use their influence and network to foster peace and harmony among all communities. We are deeply hurt to find that it seems the political parties had an active role to play in the incitement of the mobs in such cases, This was very self evident in the recent events of Gojra, Sumbrial and Kasur.
- We invite all our allies in Civil Society who believe in equality, justice and equal opportunities for all, to join us to eliminate discriminatory practices and help in building bridges with the majority community, leading towards a harmonious society.
- We finally challenge ourselves and our allies in approaching the militants/extremists groups and challenge them for the redeeming of this unfortunate situation by realizing that we are all inheritors of Abrahamic faiths and hold so much in common. We need to join hands in bringing peace and harmony for the good of us all as citizens of Pakistan.