Bishop Joseph Coutts, the Bishop of Faisalabad says that he is in the sites of Muslim extremists due to his continued efforts to establish inter-religious dialogue in his country. The bishop said that the increase in Muslim radical groups, coupled with his attempts to improve relations between Catholics and Muslims in Pakistan, have brought about numerous death threats since December.

Speaking recently with the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, Bishop Coutts said he would not let himself be intimidated and that he would persist “with inter religious activities, in favour of social harmony and religious peace in the country.”

“We have experienced the violence of certain extremist Muslim groups, a violence that did not exist formerly,” the bishop lamented. “This is for us a new phenomenon that does not go out from the population in general, but from the promotion of this way of thinking within extremist groups.”

According to the AP, Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz acknowledged the extremist problems his country faces and issued a call yesterday for Pakistanis to stand up to the groups. “One of the big challenges faced by Pakistan today is extremism and terrorism,'' Aziz said in an address in Islamabad.  “If you want progress and development, do not support the extremist forces.”

In Pakistan, a country with 150 million inhabitants, Catholics are only a small minority of 1.5 million.