ASIA/PAKISTAN - Muslim leaders defend Christians: the abuse of blasphemy is to be punished

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Lahore (Agenzia Fides) - Punishing abuse and exploitation linked to the controversial blasphemy law is an urgent need for the respect of law and the rule of law in Pakistan: this was said by Muslim leaders who met in past days, within the Council for Interreligious Dialogue in Lahore. The leaders expressed solidarity with the Christians, victims of the attack on Joseph Colony on 9 March (see Fides 9,11 and 13/3/2013).
The attack had as a pretext a case of alleged blasphemy, accusation launched towards the Christian Sawan Masih but turned out to be completely false.
As reported to Fides, the meeting of the Council, strongly backed by the Muslim leaders, brought together leaders of different religious communities, civil society and politics as Fr. Francis Nadeem OFM Cap, Coordinator of the Council, Akram Masih Gill, Minister of State for Inter-religious Harmony, as well as many ulemas and Muslim leaders. The latter firmly condemned the "barbaric episode", solidarity with the whole Christian community in Pakistan "at a time of great persecution and sorrow."
Mr. Mujeeb ur Rehman Shami, Director of "Daily Pakistan " called the attack "a disgrace to all Muslims of Pakistan," stating that "the criminals use violence in the name of Islam. A study committee has to be formed immediately, made up of Muslim and Christian leaders to find the way to a proper use of the blasphemy law. " If the accusation is false - he continued - "the accuser should be punished in the same way as the alleged offender: this is the only way to prevent cases of abuse in the future."
Prof. Aqeel Ullah reiterated: "By attacking Joseph Colony the Muslims forgot the teachings of Islam," while Mufti Abdul Naqi remarked that "it is our duty to respect national and religious humanity without any discrimination."
The Christian Akram Masih Gill, Minister of State for Harmony, also appreciated the gesture of goodwill on behalf of Islamic leaders recalling the principle of legality: "Even if a person were guilty, he/she deserves the punishment prescribed by law, but for the mistake of one man, one cannot insult and attack an entire community. We Christians are citizens of Pakistan, like the others "
Fr. Francis Nadeem, in conclusion, thanked all the Muslim members of the Council for organizing the meeting in defense of Pakistani Christians, hoping that "concrete steps to stop this kind of violence that could still happen in the future are taken." At the end of the meeting, all participants recited together the prayer, "God make me an instrument of your peace", attributed to St. Francis of Assisi. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 20/03/2013)