ISLAMABAD: Leaders of different religions and sects as well as political and religious parties on Wednesday issued a joint declaration demanding the federal and Punjab governments to reconstruct and rehabilitate vandalised churches and houses of the Christian community in Jaranawala.

The ‘Interfaith Harmony Conference’ also demanded the provincial government to award and punish the perpetrators of Jaranwala tragedy and conduct an impartial investigation.

Organised by the Pakistan Ulema Council (PUC), the conference was addressed by the leaders and representatives of different religions who termed the Jaranwala tragedy ‘sheer cruelty’ not against the Christian community but with Pakistan.

Council of Islamic Ideology Chairman Dr Qibla Ayaz said: “We are ashamed of this incident”, and demanded that special tribunal should look into this incident by functioning day and night so that criminals should not only be punished but also fined.

PUC Chairman Hafiz Mohammad Tahir Mahmood Ashrafi said the Jaranwala tragedy was a sad and condemnable act, “but the most important thing is to understand that such incidents should not occur and we need to device a mechanism that they do not occur again”.

The joint declaration also noted that a committee comprising Muslim and Christian leaders look into the Jaranwala tragedy.

The participant welcomed the actions taken by caretaker Prime Minister Anwaarul Haq Kakar, Army Chief Gen Asim Munir and Justice Qazi Faiz Isa, terming them a ray of hope for the nation in ending extremism.

The declaration announced that the leadership of all relevant religions would cooperate with the authorities in the investigation of Jaranwala tragedy and the outcome of the report should be made public.

It also noted that inter-religious and interfaith harmony conferences and gatherings would be held across the country and people would be given guidance regarding inter-religious harmony and blasphemy laws.

Meanwhile, bishops of Catholic church have expressed concerns over the Jaranwala incident.

The Bishops of the Pakistan Catholic Bishops’ Conference (PCBC) has expressed shock and sadness over the attack, burning and desecration of ‘churches, Holy Cross the Holy Bible’ and the burning and vandalizing of houses of Christian families who had nothing to do with the alleged desecration of the Holy Quran.

“We, the Bishops, of Pakistan Catholic Bishops’ Conference reiterate that the Christian community in Pakistan has time and again displayed their fidelity to Pakistan yet, incidents like the burning of Christian homes in, Shantinagar, Joseph Colony, Kot Radha Kishan, Yohanabad, many others and now Jaranwala show that the Christian community can be threatened and intimidated at will,” a statement said.

Published in Dawn, August 24th, 2023

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