ASIA/PAKISTAN - The Bishops: "The increase in violence against religious minorities is alarming: the government must protect their rights"

Wednesday, 29 May 2019 human rights   religious freedom   religious minorities   civil society   islam   hinduism   christianity  

Lahore (Agenzia Fides) - "In recent weeks there has been an alarming increase in episodes of violence aimed in particular at religious minorities. We strongly condemn attacks against minorities because of their faith. These attacks are intolerable: the State must provide protection and security to all citizens": this is what is said in a statement sent to Agenzia Fides by the National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP), within the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Pakistan.
Among the incidents mentioned in the text, there is the profanation of crosses on the tombs in a Christian village (Antonioabad) near the city of Okara, with the crosses of 40 devastated tombs. Also on May 14, a 36-year-old Christian, Javed Masih, was killed by his Muslim employer in the village of Chak 7 near Faisalabad. He suffered religious discrimination at the hands of his Muslim employer and his friends because he had decided to change his job. On May 27, 2019, a Hindu doctor, Ramesh Kumar, was accused of alleged blasphemy after a man claimed he had provided medicine wrapped in paper which, he said, "had printed verses of the Koran". The doctor was taken into custody by the police in order to avoid being lynched by the crowd.
Speaking about the situation, the "Justice and Peace" Commission asks the government to "immediately adopt measures to guarantee the safety of minorities pursuant to Article 36 of the Pakistan Constitution": "The government must ensure that the perpetrators of these violations are brought to justice and must apply the judgment of the Supreme Court of 2014 in which the executive is ordered to promote and protect the legitimate rights of religious minorities", it reads. The text calls for special attention "to the security of properties and places of worship of minorities".
Archbishop Joseph Arshad, President of the Bishops' Conference of Pakistan, condemns the episodes of violence and states: "I pray for the victims, in particular for the soul of Javed Masih and his family. I urge the government to take the necessary measures to ensure safety and to capture those responsible for such incidents".
"This kind of attack is not acceptable and represents a serious threat to the survival of minorities in Pakistan. We call for the implementation of the National Action Plan for Human Rights, to safeguard the rights of all citizens of Pakistan, of every religious faith", notes Fr. Emmanuel Yousaf, National Director of the NCJP.
Cecil Shane Chaudhry, executive director of the Commission, adds: "Members of religious minorities are still considered as second-class citizens in Pakistan. They are fighting for their fundamental rights that still need to be guaranteed by the state". (PA) (Agenzia Fides, 29/5/2019)

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