Pakistani Catholics across the country observed a day of prayers and mourning on Sunday April 29 for victims of religious intolerance and violence in the predominantly Muslim nation.
In Lahore, the capital of Punjab province, over a thousand Catholic had gathered at the Sacred Heart Cathedral for Holy Mass and to hear Father Inayat Bernard talk the contribution of Christians in the formation and development of Pakistan but who were slowly being pushed against the wall.
The priest express the concern of the Catholic community regarding the country’s controversial blasphemy laws following the first mob attack against Christians of Shanti Nagar village in 1997.
Pointing to a banner on the altar featuring Asia Bibi and three other recent victims of the blasphemy laws, Fr. Bernard said there is a long list of innocent Christians who have suffered due to their faith.
Call by NCJP
Similar prayer services were held in all Catholic Churches across the Islamic republic in response to a call by Archbishop Joseph Arshad, chairman of the National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP) of the Pakistan Catholic Bishops Conference (PCBC) who urged Christians to observe April 29 as day of mourning for all the victims of religious intolerance and day of prayer for peace in Pakistan.
"Over the past few months we have witnessed an alarming increase in violent incidents of intolerance and extremism in our country," stated the commission in a statement issued April 25.
The Commission expressed deep concern about the new “wave of targeting minorities due to their faith." "These attacks on minorities are not acceptable and the state must seriously revisit the national action plan to address the issue of extremism and terrorism in the country," the NCJP said.
Calling government to rein in terrorism and extremism
The government's national action plan against terrorism and extremism was created after the mass killing of more than 130 school children in eastern Peshawar by Islamic militants in December 2014.
The NCJP referred to a number of recent anti-Christian incidents such as the Dec. 17 suicide attack on Bethel Memorial Methodist Church in Quetta and the treatment of blasphemy accused Patras and Sajid Masih.
The NCJP national director, Father Emmanuel Yousaf noted these types of attacks on minorities are increasing but the government and relevant institutions are not taking any serious notice.
Two days earlier, on April 27, Christian Churches and groups in Pakistan responded to the call of death row Christian woman, Asia Bibi in prison since 2009, to join her in a special day of prayer and fasting on Friday for her release.
She made the call after hearing that her death sentence appeal would be re-opened in Pakistan’s Supreme Court soon. (Source: UCANEWS)