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AICC Press Release on Pak anti-Christian violence

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  • SOCM News Bureau
    All India Christian Council P. O. Box 2174, Secunderabad, Andhra Pradesh, India, 500003, Tel 0140-27868908, Email aiccdelhi@aiccindia.org , www.aiccindia.org
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 7, 2009
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      All India Christian Council

      P. O. Box 2174, Secunderabad, Andhra Pradesh, India, 500003,
      Tel 0140-27868908, Email aiccdelhi@... , www.aiccindia.org
      Dr. Joseph Dsouza President
      Dr. John Dayal Secretary General

      PRESS RELEASE

      Indian Christian leaders protest at Pakistan High Commission; demand Islamabad end Blasphemy laws, protect community reeling under violence

      PRESS RELEASE NEW DELHI, 7 August 2009

      Indian Christian leaders protest at Pakistan High Commission; demand Islamabad end Blasphemy laws, protect community reeling under violence

      Leaders of the Christian community in India demonstrated at the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi on Friday, 7th August, demanding that the Pakistan government repeal the so called Blasphemy laws and punish those responsible for burning alive of nine Pakistani Christians in violence in recent days.

      The protest was called by the National United Christian Forum, the All India Christian Council and other groups. A delegation led by NUF President Archbishop Vincent Concessao and consisting of Delhi Catholic auxiliary bishop Franco Mulakkal, Christian Council secretary general Dr John Dayal, Bishop Simon John of Believers Church, the Auxiliary bishop of the Orthodox Church, Catholic spokesperson Fr Dominic and Sr Nirmalini called on the acting High Commissioner and submitted a Memorandum addressed to the Pakistan President.

      The demonstration, which saw the participation of Catholic, Protestant, Evangelical and Pentecost churches, as also the Salvation Army, the scholars of the Vidya Jyoti College of Theology, and others, earlier assembled at the Pakistan High Commission where prohibitory orders had been imposed by the police. The protestors sang hymns. Speakers gave details of the violence in Pakistan and the plight of religious minorities in general in that country.

      The following is the text of the Memorandum submitted to the Pakistan President:

      Re: Anguish and protest at the brutal burning alive of Nine Christians and destruction of 200 houses in arson in Pakistan���s Korian and Gojra area in Toba Tek Singh District, and abuse of the so called Anti Blasphemy laws to persecute religious minorities

      Your Excellency

      Greetings from the Christian community and the secular society of the Republic of India.

      You know how the people of India have shared your anguish over the deaths of scores of innocents in various Pakistani cities at the hands of religious and political fanatics. India too has been victim of such violence, and we know that the innocent always suffer in the mindlessness of terrorism.

      But there is nothing random in violence against religious and other minority communities. Over the years, religious minorities, both Hindu, Sikh and Christian, but particularly Christian, have been targets of brutal violence planned in deeprooted conspiracy and abetted by agencies of State, incouding local police. Such violence reeks of intolerance and the impunity of state agencies smacks of official connivance. We share ties of blood and faith with our sisters and brothers across the border, and have always felt their terror, their pain and their suffering.

      But nothing in recent decades since the Partition of the subcontinent exceeds in shocking brutality the events in the Persecution in Village 362, JB, Korian, Gojra, District, Toba Tek Singh on 26th July 2009.

      Marauding gangs let loose a frenzy of violence on children, women and men who were in the midst of wedding celebrations in a village called Korian Chak number 362 JB, very close to the small city of sub Division Gojra, District, Toba Tek Singh. Some children had shredded an old book to make confetti to shower on the newly wedded couple. This was a not a holy book, but apparently a book on Islamic studies. There was uproar in the village. However, the matter was settled amicably when it became clear that this had been done by children who were illiterate and there was no intention of desecrating any holy texts.

      But hardliners would not want peace. They accused the Christians of blasphemy and desecration, a charge that has now become routine against the community. Around sunset on 30th July a large mob descended on Korian demanding that Taalib Masih (the father of the children) be hanged for blasphemy. Fortunately the Christians had been forewarned and had already fled their homes to safer places. The mob then began its spree of looting and burning the 70 to 80 Christian houses in the village. The two small churches, one Protestant and the other Pentecostal, were ransacked but not burned down. Sharief Masih a disabled who was not able to run away died a day before yesterday as he was in a trauma.

      Christians in many surrounding villages and towns began receiving threats as Mullahs (Muslim clerics) began preaching hatred and revenge. On 1st August a large mob moved towards a Christian locality called Christian Town in the centre of Gojra city near railway station. They carried sticks, clubs and even firearms. The small police force���s half-hearted attempt to stop them was ineffective. The Christians tried to resist the mob. The mob besieged the locality and went on a rampage, looting and burning about 100 Christian houses. Police reinforcements arrived by late afternoon, but it was too late - the damage had been done. Till evening bodies were being recovered from the smoking ruins of the houses. The number of injured is not known, but 8 Christians were killed, two of them children.

      It was planned to have the funeral of the 7 Christians around noon on Sunday, 2nd August. But when Atif Jamil Pagaan, central convener Pakistan Minorities Democratic Movement, came to know that the police had not yet registered a report against 12 persons whom the Christians had identified and two city officials for criminal negligence, they refused to release the bodies for burial. But the police delayed in registering the report, offered to enter a milder, watered-down version instead. The Christians continue to protest.

      The Pakistani civil society and the Christian community have demanded the government repeal the Blasphemy Law that was repeatedly being misused and had now caused the death of nine innocent Christians. Pakistani Christian leaders have urged the government to ensure equal rights and protection for the community.

      There are indications that the attack on Korian, as well as on Gojra, was planned and the people instigated by a banned Islamic group. Such extremist Islamic groups want a sort of religious cleansing. What happened in Korian and Gojra was almost a replication of what had happened near Kasur a small city about 40 kilometres from Lahore only a month ago. Similarly, in 2005, in the town of Sangla Hill, Christian houses, two churches, the pastor���s houses, a high school and convent were ransacked and badly damaged. In 1997 a large Christian village called Shantinagar was reduced to ruins. In all these cases the police did almost nothing to stop the rampaging mobs.

      The Christian community in India joins with the peace-loving people across the world and supports the demand by Pakistan Civil Society and the Minority communities, specially the Christians, for strong action by Federal and Provincial authorities to bring the guilty to book and to create an environment of peace in which the religious minorities can regain their confidence. Mr President, you will agree a modern Pakistan can have nothing less. Our good wishes remain with the people of Pakistan of all communities. Signed by Archbishop Vincent M Concessao on behalf of the Christian community in India.
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