"The misuse of blasphemy laws is tantamount to blasphemy."
Faisalabad/Aleteia (Aleteia.org/ar) – During a candlelight vigil held yesterday in Faisalabad, Christian and Muslim religious leaders, activists and normal everyday people stressed that the Pakistani government needed to take “immediate steps” to put an end to the abuses related to the “blasphemy laws in the country.” They also stressed a need to punish those who are proven guilty of scurrilously charging others of blasphemy for the purpose of revenge or for settling personal grievances.
The government needs to take charge of security in order to prevent an outbreak of violence and mob attacks being instigated by local religious leaders and extremist groups.
In order to achieve this objective, it must be assured that army and police forces are receiving the best training possible. In instances where leaders are not complying with orders or they intentional fail to intervene to prevent crimes and violations they must be held accountable.
This initiative was sponsored by the National Minorities Alliance of Pakistan (NMAP), with cooperation from the Joshua Welfare Organization (JWO) and the Muslims and Christians Union (MMI).
More than a thousand people joined the demonstration. Among those who were in attendance were priests, nuns, activists, human rights defenders, students, children and representatives of the Muslim and Christian groups. They were carrying banners and yelling slogans supporting peace and the protection of the rights of oppressed minorities.
At the end of the march the participants held a joint inter-faith prayer for the married couple, Shamah and Shahjad Masih, the latest casualties of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws.
The chairperson of NMAP, Robin Daniel stated that “These blasphemy laws were used as a pretext to murder Christians in the name of religion. This is the same as acts of genocide against minority groups.” He called for the enacting of laws to prevent accidents, acts of violence and personal attacks from ever happening again, by using blasphemy as a pretext in the future. He also called for reforms to guarantee the equal rights of minorities.
Meanwhile, Father Iftikhar Moon in Faisalabad accused the central government of failing to protect minorities who were “targeted in the name of religion.” He said that those individuals who baselessly accuse an innocent person of blasphemy must be held accountable and brought to justice.
Pastor Sohail Kanwal stated that “the misuse of blasphemy laws is tantamount to an act of blasphemy,” and the perpetrator deserves the same punishments. For this reason, there is a need for a special inquiry committee to investigate backlogged court cases were blasphemy has been alleged; including the Asia Bibi case.
Finally, the Islamic activist, Yunus Abar, called for the enactment of laws and statutes within the labor market; especially in factories where workers are exposed to mistreatment and harassment. Minorities are the most at risk in these circumstances. He stressed an urgent need to clean up the factories and for the implementation of regulations to protect workers.
This article was originally published in Aleteia’s Arabic edition. Translated byDonald Puhlman.