Bishops call on Pakistani government to combat anti-Christian persecution

.- The president of the Bishops’ Conference of Pakistan, Archbishop Lawrence Saldanha, has condemned the recent anti-Christian attacks in the country and called for “action,” not only “words” from the government “to defend Christians.”

According to Fides news agency, Archbishop Saldanha was referring to the recent cases of Christians being burned alive for refusing to convert to Islam.  In the name of the Church in Pakistan, he called on the government to bring justice and to prevent these acts from going unpunished.  “We demand that the rights of Christians are respected, as they should be for all other citizens,” he said.

"The political authorities, the media of Pakistan, the international community, civil society: all are called to do more to create awareness of suffering and insecurity of Christians and religious minorities, who should be protected in their dignity and fundamental human rights,” the archbishop told Fides.

He called on the government to quickly set up a "direct hotline" number to the office of President Ali Zardari to report anti-Christian violence. "It would be an important step; we support it strongly. It is often difficult for Christians to have contact with the authorities,” he said.

Meanwhile, Francis Mehboob Sada, director of the Christian Study Center in Rawalpindi, an ecumenical center for the promotion and protection of minorities in Pakistan, told Fides, "We are bitter about the vulnerability of Christians who suffer under the regime of apartheid and the stigma of persecution.”  “The attitude of the police was appalling and shameful. With other NGOs, we will write to the President and the Prime Minister, asking for urgent action,” he said.

Archbishop Saldanha also called for “greater security in view of the Holy Week celebrations. The Christian community wants to celebrate Easter in peace. Good Friday for Christians in Pakistan will be experienced with particular intensity and prayer, as the suffering of the present unites us in the Cross of Christ."


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