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Bishops Decry Violence Against Religious Minorities in Pakistan

Statement by Justice and Peace Commission (NCJP) of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Pakistan

“In recent weeks there has been an alarming increase in violent episodes in particular against religious minorities. Some of the most recent incidents include the profanation of crosses on tombs in a Christian village, Antonioabad, near the city of Okara”: this was stated by the Justice and Peace Commission (NCJP) of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Pakistan, expressing concern about these incidents.

In a statement sent to Fides News Agency, the Commission reports several episodes in recent months: on May 12, some faithful noticed damaged and broken crosses on 40 tombs in a Catholic cemetery in Antonioabad. Moreover it is recalled that, also in May, Javed Masih, a 36-year-old Christian, was killed by his Muslim employer in the village of Chak 7, near Faisalabad, after suffering religious discrimination.

The list released by the Commission shows that Hindu doctor Ramesh Kumar was indicted for blasphemy on charges of having provided medicine wrapped in a paper that, according to the prosecution, had printed verses from the Koran. Following this accusation, a crowd set fire to the doctor’s office.

The “Justice and Peace” Commission strongly condemns “targeted violence against minorities only because of their faith” and states: “These attacks on minorities are not acceptable and the state must provide protection and security for all citizens”.

Archbishop Joseph Arshad, President of the Commission, Fr. Emmanuel Yousaf, Director, and Cecil Shane Chaudhry, Executive Director, call on the government to “immediately take effective measures to ensure the safety of minorities under Article 36 of the Constitution of Pakistan”, bringing the perpetrators of the violence to justice.

“It is of the utmost importance that the government implement the ruling of the Supreme Court of June 19, 2014, for the promotion and protection of the legitimate rights of religious minorities”, states the note sent to Fides, fearing that “minorities are still considered second-class citizens” and still have to fight for their fundamental rights.

Emmanuel Yousaf stressed that “these attacks constitute a serious threat to the survival of minorities in Pakistan”, asking them to implement “the National Action Plan for Human Rights”.

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