By Robin Gomes
Pakistan’s Catholic Church has expressed concern over growing insecurity among the nation’s minority communities, especially Christians, with an alarming increase in violence against them.
"In recent weeks there has been an alarming increase in violent episodes in particular against religious minorities,” noted the National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP) of the Pakistan Catholic Bishops’ Conference (PCBC). “Some of the most recent incidents include the profanation of crosses on tombs in a Christian village, Antonioabad, near the city of Okara,” it said in a statement sent to the Vatican’s Fides news agency.
It reported several episodes in recent months. On May 12, some faithful noticed damaged and broken crosses on 40 tombs in a Catholic cemetery in Antonioabad. The same month, Javed Masih, a 36-year-old Christian, was killed by his Muslim employer in the village of Chak 7, near Faisalabad. Ramesh Kumar, a Hindu doctor, was accused of blasphemy on charges of having wrapped medicine in a paper that, according to the prosecution, had printed verses from the Koran. An angry crowd set his office on fire.
The NCJP condemned these “targeted violence against minorities only because of their faith”, saying “these attacks on minorities are not acceptable and the state must provide protection and security for all citizens.”
NCJP president, Archbishop Joseph Arshad of the Diocese of Islamabad-Rawalpindi, and executive director, Cecil Shane Chaudhry, have called 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 to justice.
"It is of the utmost importance that the government implement the ruling of the Supreme Court of 19 June 2014 for the promotion and protection of the legitimate rights of religious minorities", the statement said. It lamented that “minorities are still considered second-class citizens” and still have to fight for their fundamental rights.
NCJP national director, Father Emmanuel Yousaf (Mani) stressed that “these attacks constitute a serious threat to the survival of minorities in Pakistan”, asking the government to implement “the National Action Plan for Human Rights”.
The Plan of Action is a comprehensive document identifying key areas of intervention, suggesting steps, action and also the responsible agencies for implementing it. Approved on February 13, 2016, by former Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, it comes under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Human Rights. (Source: Fides)