Violence Against Christians Continue in Pakistan

Silver Spring, MD. September 30, 2002. Two gunmen burst into the offices of a Christian charity in Karachi, Pakistan yesterday, September 25, killing seven men after bounding and gagging them, while two other men remain in critical condition. All employees of the Karachi office of the Organization for Peace and Justice, this incident is the latest in a series of violence against Christians and Christian organizations. The Organization for Peace and Justice is a Catholic-and Protestant-supported group that provides legal advice to impoverished industrial workers and women. The attack occurred shortly after police officers stripped signs identifying churches in private homes and placing sandbags outside Christian sites as an attempt to protect Christians and their organizations.

“We are appalled at the violence against Christians in Pakistan,” says Dr. John Graz, Secretary General for the International Religious Liberty Association (IRLA). “Violence against any religious group must not be tolerated and the perpetrators must be held accountable for such crimes. My colleagues and I will continue our efforts to raise awareness in Pakistan and other countries to promote tolerance and respect for each other.”

The separation in 1947 of British India into the Muslim state of Pakistan and largely Hindu India has never been resolved satisfactorily. Yesterday’s violence caused an outrage as hundreds marched through the southern port city of Karachi. “Breaking the cycle of violence can be difficult and requires strong democratic institutions. Persecution of minorities reflect the difficulty for the state to control extremists and the danger of general chaos. At a time such as this, the role of the government and religious leaders is critical. Representatives from all churches, temples, and Moques in Pakistan need to promote a message of love and religious tolerance.” Graz said.

On January 16, 2002, the government of Pakistan announced the end of a discriminatory system of separate electorate, which is a positive sign for its citizens. However, the fact that they were unable to change the blasphemy law in spite of pressure from the international world shows how fragile religious tolerance is. [Viola Hughes]