01-09-2009 - Traces, n. 8



Three suicide bombings and continued mistreatment thanks to the “blasphemy law,” in India’s neighbor, too, there are those who are dying in the name of Christ. The bishops call for action…

by Alessandra Stoppa

There was an attack on a shop owned by Catholics in Quetta, the capital of Beluchistan, a shooting in which five people lost their lives. This is the most recent incident a month after the dramatic massacre in Punjab, in the city of Gojra, which cost the lives of eleven Christians. The situation in Pakistan is becoming more and more worrisome, aggravated by a blasphemy law that, continually misused, goes on reaping its victims. The norm foresees that every presumed insult to the Koran be punished by life imprisonment, and every insult to the prophet Muhammad by the death penalty. Before all these facts, the Pakistan Bishops’ Conference has made the urgent request that justice be done in the attacks on Christians, and it announced the launch of a petition for the abrogation of the anti-blasphemy laws. All the Christians in Pakistan launched an ultimatum to the government, for September 25th, asking for at least an amendment to the laws.
All this is happening while, in the northwest of the country, a curfew has been imposed because of the new wave of suicide bombings in the fighting against government forces. Even the violent actions against Christians seem to be more and more linked to the Taliban. Many sources in Pakistan report a change of tactics on the part of the Taliban: they now aim at a strategy that will pit the various minorities against each other.
Recently, in the Pakistan parliament, the Minister for Human Rights, Syed Mumtaz Alam Gillani, quoted statistics for the violations in the whole country: over 11,000 cases in three years, and almost 8,000 this year, 65% of the total, have gone unpunished. The most recent example is of 103 Muslim fundamentalists accused of the massacre in the city of Gojra, last August 1st. The Archbishop of Lahore accused the slowness of the Pakistani courts. Archbishop Lawrence John Saldanha declares, “We are profoundly offended by the way this case has been dealt with. Again this time, the guilty will go unpunished.” His words are echoed by the Vicar General of Hyderabad, Monsignor John Murad, “We are disconcerted at the slowness of the justice system. It is not a good sign. I think the struggle against violence perpetrated because of the present law on blasphemy will be a very long one.”
There has been a sign of hope and sharing, however: help from the inter-religious meeting in the diocese of Hyderabad at the end of August. Christians, Muslims, and Hindus met during the meal that marked the end of Ramadan to unanimously condemn the attack of the integralist fanatics of Gojra. In the meantime, a proposal has been put forward for a law to create a national commission on human rights and Minister Gillani, on a visit to the Christian community of Gojra, announced that he wants also to create an ad hoc commission on the regulation of the anti-blasphemy law.