UN protection sought for Jaranwala victims

Published August 26, 2023
View of a burnt church on the outskirts of Faisalabad on August 16 following an attack by a mob. — AFP/File
View of a burnt church on the outskirts of Faisalabad on August 16 following an attack by a mob. — AFP/File

UNITED NATIONS: Hundreds of Pakistani Christians protested outside the UN headquarters on Thursday evening, urging the world body to take decisive action to protect Christians from mob attacks.

Although it was a working day, about 1,000 Chris­tians came from across the US east coast to “show how the mob attacks in Jaranwala have hurt every Christian,” said James Cyprian, one of the organisers of the rally.

The park outside the UN headquarters, which is reserved for protests and rallies, was filled to capacity while some protesters were also marching on adjacent streets and roads.

Usually, such protests do not get more than 100 to 200 people on a weekday.

In a resolution shared with UN officials, the protesters urged the world body to persuade Pakistan to make laws to end future attacks on minorities.

The resolution dem­a­n­d­ed legislation to stop the misuse of blasphemy laws, and to end the practice of using blasphemy allegations for personal interests. It also urged the United Nations to play its role in guaranteeing religious freedom and to stop forced conversions.

Christian leaders, who organised Wednesday’s rally, traveled to Washing­ton on Friday to share their demands with Pakis­tan’s US envoy, Amba­ssador Masood Khan.

Earlier, Pakistani Christian leaders told the protest rally how an unsubstantiated allegation of blasphemy against two local youths was used as an excuse to burn down churches and ransack homes in Jaranwala.

“Even crosses and holy books were not spared,” said Aron Bashir, a Republican leader of Pakistani origin from Pennsylvania.

“We feel insecure in our own homeland,” said Ziba Gill, another Pakistani Christian activist. “We are now seeking protection from the United Nations.”

The speakers also pointed out how Assistant Commissioner of Jaran­wala Shaukat Masih was transferred the same day to appease the culprits.

Pastors from different churches in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and other states addressed the rally as well and offered special prayers for the victims.

Leaders of other communities also addressed the rally and expressed concern over a gradual increase in attacks on minorities’ places of worship in Pakistan, including churches and temples.

They said that extrajudicial actions, fuelled by allegations of blasphemy, have generated concerns about minorities’ rights to life, liberty, security, and religious freedom enshri­ned in the Consti­tution of Pakistan.

“Such attacks instill terror and fear among the minority communities, further undermining their sense of security and religious harmony,” said the resolution shared with the UN officials.

The protesters demanded that an FIR should be registered immediately against those who instigated the mob attacks and an impartial task force or joint investigation team should probe the incident.

They should also examine the role of law enforcement agencies and their failure to intervene proactively, they added.

The protesters urged authorities to take immediate action against all miscreants, including any government officials and/or law enforcement officers found complicit.

The protesters also demanded a thorough investigation into the involvement of local clerics in inciting mob violence, with appropriate legal action taken against any cleric found guilty.

They urged the Punjab government to compensate those whose properties were vandalised and stolen or burnt and renovate the damaged churches and properties.

Published in Dawn, August 26th, 2023

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