Pakistan: Christians still wary despite change in government
After the recent elections that brought to power the "Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz" (PML-N) party and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, many Christians are skeptical. In a recent conference held in Lahore, a group of Christian leaders said that Pakistani Christians are worried about the future.
Among their concerns is the prosection of Pakistan's Muslim blasphemy laws, which are often used to persecute Christian minorities. Nadeem Anthony, a Christian lawyer, told the Fides news agency, "The majority of Christians do not have high hopes in Sharif’s future government because of his religious conservative approach and links with fundamentalist groups. Sharif was also in favor of the blasphemy law, which is a major cause of problems for Christians in Pakistan," he recalls.
The publication of a new report on the serious anti-Christian attacks in Gojra makes the situation even more serious, where eight Christians were burnt alive, including two children, in 2009. The report indicates some members of the "Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz" party that had just been elected to the government of Punjab province, where the massacre took place, as perpetrators of the massacre. Occurring on July 31, 2009, Muslim leaders engaged in a "mass punishment" of Christians. Hundreds of Christian homes were burned following the unfounded accusations of blasphemy against three Christians. Pakistani police were apparently indifferent to the attacks on Christians, according to the Fides news agency, that was carried out by approximately 7,000 enraged Muslims.
While the government of Punjab rebuilt some of the burned out Christian homes, about 50 families decided to leave the country permanently.
Christians note that perpetrators of anti-Christian violence apparently act with impunity in the majority Muslim country. Following the 2009 affray, only 17 people were charged with murder and another 113 charges with aiding in the massacre. All were released within a few months. "The witnesses were systematically intimidated and silenced, " said Peter Jacob of the Justice and Peace Commission of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Pakistan.
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