Church Leaders Condemn Anti-Blasphemy Violence, Rising Terrorist Incidents
LAHORE: Church leaders in Pakistan expressed concern over the upsurge in acts of terrorism and mob violence in the country and called on the government to provide protection to all citizens by addressing the root causes of the extremism in society.
The requests were made during a special memorial service held at the Central Church of the Praying Hands Cathedral in the Diocese of Raiwind for lay leader William Siraj, who was shot dead by unknown assailants in Peshawar on January 30. Another priest, Reverend Patrick Naeem was injured in the attack. The service was tracked
by all the Bishops of the Church of Pakistan, Christians from various walks of life, members of civil society and human rights activists.
Addressing the occasion, the Moderator/President of the Church of Pakistan, Bishop Azad Marshall, condemned the Peshawar attack and expressed his reservations about the delay in apprehending the perpetrators.
“It has been almost a month since our brother was killed by suspected terrorists, but there has been no progress in the case so far. The attack on the two church leaders has instilled a sense of insecurity among community members and we continue to look to the state to bring justice to the family of the victim,” he said. he declares.
Bishop Marshall said the church is very concerned about the growing intolerance and extremism in society which is not only impacting citizens but also bringing a bad name to Pakistan.
“The lynching incidents in Sialkot and Mian Channu and similar attempts in Faisalabad and Muzaffargarh show that the capitulation of successive governments to extremist forces has emboldened and given a sense of impunity to this barbaric public mentality.
“It is time for the government and religious leaders to act beyond condemnation. There is a need to identify the regressive ideologies and narratives that are responsible for this toxicity in our society and work to address it. We must also come up with legislation that acts as a powerful deterrent against the misuse of blasphemy laws, otherwise no citizen will be safe from false accusations and the risk of being lynched by mobs,” said he declared.
The church leader also criticized the government for ignoring his calls to protect minority girls from sexual exploitation under the guise of religious conversion and marriage. “We have raised this issue several times, but the government has shown no interest in addressing this extremely concerning issue,” he said.
Bishop Marshall said that in view of the growing challenges facing the community, he decided to convene a consultation meeting of Christian leaders from all walks of life to find ways to resolve the issues.
“It’s time for community leaders to sit down and develop a comprehensive strategy for the future. We will announce the date of the meeting shortly after consulting with all stakeholders,” he said.
The Bishop also announced that the head of the worldwide Anglican Communion, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, has come to Pakistan for a three-day visit.
“We are grateful to the Archbishop for undertaking this visit despite the security situation here. This is the third time he has visited Pakistan, making him the only Archbishop of Canterbury to visit an Anglican province more than once. Pakistan holds a special place in the heart of His grace and we hope that His visit here will be a source of blessing to us all,” Bishop Marshall said.
He added that the Archbishop would also meet with senior civilian and military officials and shed light with them on the problems of the Pakistani Christian community.
The memorial service was also delivered by bishops from other CoP dioceses. Participants then lit candles and offered prayers for the deceased church leader and all other victims of the violence.