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Pakistan Christians appeal: CEN 8.24.07 p 8. August 25, 2007

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of Pakistan, Civil Rights, Islam.
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Pakistan’s Christian community marked the sixtieth anniversary of independence with a march in Lahore last week and calls for a repeal of the country’s “blasphemy laws”.

 

The crowd, which organizers from the All Pakistan Minorities Alliance (APMA) estimated at “tens of thousands,” delivered a 30-point petition on Aug 11 to the country’s Chief Justice calling for a return to the vision of a secular Pakistan articulated by the “Father of the Nation” Muhammad Ali Jinnah.

 

The leader of the opposition Pakistan People’s Party in the Punjab Provincial Assembly brought greetings from the national party leader Benazir Bhutto to the rally. The former prime minister expressed her support for the rally since “the country had never been in so great a need for a voice against religious intolerance and extremism.”

 

Roman Catholic speaker Fr Bonnie Mendes called upon the government to separate Islam from state. This is the “only way that we can make Pakistan the Pakistan of Quaid-e-Azam” [the Great Leader—Muhammad Ali Jinnah] Asia News reported.

 

The petition called for Jinnah’s words to the first session of Pakistan’s constituent assembly to be added to the nation’s constitution. “You are free. You are free to go to your temples. You are free to go to your mosques or to any other places of worship in this state of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion, caste or creed – that has nothing to do with the business of the State … We are starting with this fundamental principle, that we are all citizens and citizens of one state.”

 

Group Captain Cecil Chaudhry, Executive Secretary of APMA, told Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) Christians, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists and Parsees as well as moderate Muslims from across Pakistan attended the rally.

Benedict Rogers, CSW’s Advocacy Officer for South Asia, said: “Discrimination against minorities has been widespread for far too long in Pakistan. Such discrimination, hatred and persecution flies in the face of the vision that the nation’s founder, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, set out 60 years ago.

 

“This rally demonstrates that despite the rise of extremism, many people in Pakistan hold onto Jinnah’s vision for a nation which accepts its citizens equally, regardless of religious background,” he said.

 

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