08 settembre 2009

Witnesses Recount Slayings of Pakistani Christians

Dominicans Urge End to Anti-Blasphemy Laws

By Mercedes De La Torre
Permalink: http://www.zenit.org/article-26765?l=english
ROME, SEPT. 4, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Two Dominican priests are in Rome to spread awareness of the fear and suffering being endured by the faithful in Pakistan after the slaying of more than a dozen Christians.

Fathers Pascal Paulus and Iftikhar Moon, who work in the Diocese of Faisalabad, were eyewitnesses of the killing of eight Christians and the burning of 70 homes in Gorja on Aug. 1.

Christians in Pakistan have become even more fearful since the Aug. 28 shooting death of five more Christians in Quetta.

The priests spoke with ZENIT on Thursday in the Ecumenical Russia Center, near the Vatican.

Both work in the Holy Rosary parish in Faisalabad, which was burned.

Father Paulus told ZENIT that despite the fear and threats, they will return to Pakistan with enthusiasm, "because we are announcing Christ: Our mission is to promote Christ, to love Christ and to love humanity."

"Pakistan is the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, where everything is with a Muslim understanding, and people want to have an Islamic law, the sharia, although the government is trying to bring democracy," he explained.

In this context, the Dominican suggested that the biggest problem Christians face in Pakistan is the anti-blasphemy law.

The priest said these laws -- which carry the punishment of life imprisonment or death -- are used as a pretext to take over Christian properties.

The Dominican acknowledged that such an environment means "we could die with the people."

Nothing left

He recounted the events that occurred at the end of July and beginning of August: "On July 30, the violence broke out with a crowd of furious and armed Muslim fanatics, who attacked the Christian neighborhood of Koriaan, close to the town of Gojra, and destroyed and plundered the houses.

"Two days later, Aug. 1, eight Christians were burned alive.

"The crowd attacked a group of Christians, made up of three children, three women and two men. They plundered and burned 70 Christian homes, and desecrated two churches in Gojra.

"The furious mob plundered houses, destroyed Bibles and other sacred books, destroyed crosses, ravaged and burned everything. The Christians who had their houses burned have been left with nothing."


The Dominicans lamented that the authorities did nothing to stop the attacks.

"It should be emphasized that the Gojra police and other units have done nothing to prevent these events and did not pay attention to the declarations made in mosques against Christians," Father Paulus continued. "The police intervened when everything was over and it was too late.

"It's also very sad that the government has taken up such a grave situation only after Christians organized a protest on a train route, 72 hours later."

The priests explained that later, the president and prime minister of Pakistan, as well as local authorities, condemned the attacks. The government has promised a reimbursement for Christians who lost their homes.

Outside help

Nevertheless, Father Moon affirmed that the Pope's early-August message of support provided great spiritual consolation.

"That message gave us encouragement and hope," he said, "since we saw that the head of the Church is with us, is speaking on our behalf."

The Dominicans beseeched the support of Christians around the world, particularly in pressuring the Pakistani government to repeal anti-blasphemy laws.

"We make a call to the global human rights organizations so that they take note of these events and intercede before our government in favor of protecting Christians and other minorities," he said. "We ourselves, the Christians of Pakistan, do not feel safe in our own country."

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