The CCA family is shocked and saddened to learn of yet another tragic and brutal incident of harassment and murder under the Blasphemy law. We are dismayed to hear that the young Christian couple accused of desecrating the Holy Quran, was beaten and then burned to death by a mob in a small Pakistani village in Punjab province. As per news reports, though the couple had locked themselves in a room, the mob broke open the door, beat them up and pulled their bodies to a nearby kiln where they were burnt.
It is of some comfort to know that the local police have arrested 45 people in connection with the attack and that a case had been filed under multiple sections of Pakistan’s Penal Code, including murder and attacking police officials.
Christians and the global community are concerned about the safety and protection of religious minorities in Pakistan. Coming at a time when Aasia Bibi’s appeal is pending in the Supreme Court, such incidents of mob violence is more worrying than ever.
While expressing our solidarity with the churches in Pakistan, we join Christian communities, leaders and human rights activists around the world in voicing our strong concern against the continuing abuse and exploitation of the Blasphemy Law to oppress religious minorities. We believe that the situation is more alarming when people take law into their own hands and make it difficult for vulnerable communities to live a normal life in their own countries.
We appeal for a revision of not only the Blasphemy law but all such laws that discriminate and punish people on the basis of religion, and for facilitating an atmosphere where democratic institutions can remain just and fair and function without fear or favor.
We the Churches of Asia will continue to uphold you in our prayers. We affirm that building communities of love, justice and peace is the hallmark of Christianity and this will always be the foundation on which our church stands. We believe that the core values of all religions are that of love, justice, peace, reconciliation, equality and human dignity; and that it is this commonality of core values that the religious leaders must endeavor to promote.
We pray for forgiveness and understanding in a situation where the emotions of people are fanned by religious sentiments. Let us reach out in peace and strengthen common religious concerns for justice and peace for all, rather than emphasize differences that divide and fragment the world.
In this regard, Rt. Rev. Samuel Azariah, President Bishop, Church of Pakistan called for a meeting of all the religious heads of the various Christian denominations in Lahore along with a few leading Muslim Clerics to jointly address this issue. He planned to have a press conference, and a huge public meeting on Sunday, “condemning the misuse of the law and demanding that exemplary punishment be given to the false accusers.”
(Blasphemy law is a law limiting the freedom of speech and expression relating to blasphemy or irreverence toward holy personages, religious artifacts, customs, or beliefs. Chapter XV of Pakistan Penal Code deals with “Offences Relating to Religion” listed under Sections 295-298. There is a death penalty for blasphemy in Pakistan).
Photo: Press Conference convened by Rt. Rev. Samuel Azariah, Church of Pakistan
Photo Courtesy: Rev. Reuben Quamar