ASIA/PAKISTAN - "Minorities discriminated, while extremism is growing", says the President of the Episcopal Conference, one year after Asia Bibi’s sentence

Monday, 7 November 2011

Islamabad (Agenzia Fides) - "Religious minorities in Pakistan suffer discrimination in the silence of the government and institutions", and "Islamic extremism has grown strongly in recent years and affects the social and political life of the country": this is what His Exc. Mgr. Joseph Coutts, Bishop of Faisalabad and President of the Episcopal Conference of Pakistan declares in an interview with Fides, a year after Asia Bibi’s death sentence, a Christian woman and mother wrongfully accused of blasphemy and sentenced by the court in Sheikupura on 8 November 2010.
"A year after that tragic verdict – explains Bishop Coutts to Fides - the conditions of religious minorities have not changed for the better and indeed the country is plagued by serious political, economic, social, moral, religious problems that are reflected on Muslim and non Muslim citizens. In one year, the country has lost two great defenders against the blasphemy law, Shabhaz Bhatti and Salman Taseer, while the unjust law has not been touched or challenged". "Meanwhile - continues the Bishop - the phenomenon of Islamic extremism has grown, with groups who wish to openly impose the Islamic law and establish a theocracy. Their work affects Christian and Hindu minorities but also other minorities such as Ahmadis and Shias. It is a complex and worrying phenomenon, which affects the whole structure and the whole system of the country".
In particular, notes the Bishop, "these extremist groups have a strong influence on courts: the case of indirect pressure on judges and witnesses, that condition the judgments and the application of the law, leaving many people, often members of minorities, without justice".
In this delicate phase, "as Catholic Church and Christian community, we are working together with civil society, to promote a new culture which consisits of dialogue, social harmony, brotherhood, mutual understanding, along with all people of good will, of whatever faith they belong to" and concludes Bishop Coutts", I see that this movement of ideas and action is growing, leaving hope for the future of the country". (PA) (Agenzia Fides 07/11/2011)