Europeans are indignant about the destruction of Pakistani churches
Outraged Pakistani Muslims burnt down four churches and several homes of Christians in the country. Christians in Europe are shocked.
The reason for the attacks was an accusation of blasphemy. In Pakistan, it is illegal to insult the prophet Muhammed or even his wives and other relatives. The offence can even be punished with the death penalty. But often, Muslims take the right into their own hands.
Religious intolerance is a large problem in Pakistan, Kristeligt Dagblad writes. The Danish newspaper is critical of the fact that the government is busy working on deteriorating relationships with Muslim countries after the recent Quran burnings. “One could wish that the government criticised with equal fervour the lack of minority protection in many of the Muslim countries that are currently lagging behind Denmark and Sweden.”
Persecution in Pakistan
Two Christians were arrested last week after four churches were burned and several homes of Christians were destroyed, Vart Land writes. The two men were accused of desecrating a Quran.
Violent mobs took to the street and attacked church buildings with stones and sticks, Info Chretienne writes. Christians fled in panic; some found refuge with their Muslim neighbours.
Between January and the end of June, 78 cases were reported in which people were accused of blasphemy, Vart Land states. People were attacked by mobs and dragged in by the police. Four people were even killed in Islamic zealousy.
Also, in July, 3 to 4 thousand Christians fled from their homes after Christians were accused of blasphemy texts on a mosque.
“We will not give in to authoritarian rulers who, at home, use blasphemy laws in a targeted manner to protect their own religion and their own power base. They often lack the will to protect religious minorities”, editor Johannes Morken writes in a comment in Vart Land.
After the recent Quran burnings, the situation for Christians in Pakistan has deteriorated. Further, Morken points out. The Senate of Pakistan has introduced an extended blasphemy law which also penalises those who insult the extended family of the Islamic prophet Muhammed. The editor finds it “tragic that a Parliament both worsens the blasphemy law and fails to protect vulnerable minorities.”
Also, the blasphemy law is applied randomly, and anyone can become a victim, Morken argues. Therefore, he calls for Pakistan to quit pressuring Western nations to re-introduce blasphemy laws. Instead, the Pakistani Prime Minister should “do something drastic with his own laws and their abuse.”
The President of the British organisation Christian Solidarity Worldwide, Mervyn Thomas, is also worried about the development of religious freedom in Pakistan. “It is unacceptable that the police did not act swiftly to prevent the violence in Jaranwala, which was entirely predictable”, he says about the attack on the churches last week. Thomas emphasises that the organisation condemns the attacks and calls upon the Pakistani government to “increase security in the area without delay, to support those who have fled and to arrest those inciting and carrying out the violence, so that mob justice does not prevail.”
The chairman of the (Catholic) Pakistan Bishops’ Conference, Archbishop Joseph Arshad, has called for strict punishments for the perpetrators of the church attack, <a href="https://www.idea-pressedienst.de/artikel.html?tx_news_pi1%5Bid%5D=88120&tx_news_pi1%5BbackPid%5D=6 reports. He called for justice “so that such incidents do not happen again in the future.” According to Arshad, the problem in the country is that people take the law into their own hands. He pleads for better education and “respect for the religion of others must be encouraged.”
In addition, the Catholic bishops of Pakistan have declared August 20 a special day of prayer, Idea writes.
Words fail me as I write this. We, Bishops, Priests and lay people are deeply pained and distressed at the Jaranwala incident in the Faisalabad District in Pakistan. A church building is being burnt as I type this message. Bibles have been desecrated and Christians have been… pic.twitter.com/xruE83NPXL— Bishop Azad Marshall (@BishopAzadM" target="_blank">Idea August 16, 2023
The Dutch Reformed SGP party calls for help for persecuted Christians in Pakistan. The party urged the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade to realise this support. The country should emphasise the severity of the matter to the Pakistani authorities, the SGP argues. Also, the Netherlands and the European Union should think about how they can offer concrete help to the affected Christians by sending money.
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