Church leader demands protection, justice for victims of religiously-motivated violence

A senior church leader has urged the government to take indiscriminate action against elements responsible for sowing religious discord in Pakistan and ensuring justice for the victims of religiously-motivated violence.

Addressing a Seerat conference held here the other day, Church of Pakistan President Bishop Azad Marshall lamented that nearly two months have passed since the violent attacks on multiple churches and homes of Christians in Jaranwala, Faisalabad district, but the government is yet to hold the instigators of these riots and those responsible for inaction accountable.

“No action has been taken against the police officials for showing negligence in protecting the churches and homes of Christians in Jaranwala. This is not the first time our settlements have been attacked and it certainly won’t be the last till the government ascertains the reasons behind such violence and holds its own officials accountable for giving free hand to rioters,” he said.

The event was organised by Pakistan Ulema Council Chairman Hafiz Tahir Ashrafi and was attended by over 500 scholars and religious leaders.

Calling for the need to ensure equal implementation of laws, Marshall said it was time to end the judicial apartheid in the country.

“The law must be equal for every citizen regardless of their faith affiliations but sadly we do not witness this in our country. Moreover, it is obligatory on the state to provide protection to its minority citizens but that too is lacking resulting in a sense of insecurity among the religious minorities,” he added. 
Referring to the covenant that Prophet Muhammad made with the monks of Saint Catherine’s Monastery for protection of followers of Jesus Christ, Marshall said though the government and Islamic scholars repeatedly mentioned the agreement in their speeches, no practical steps have been taken to enforce it in letter and spirit.

“We are now pinning our hopes on the new army chief and the chief justice of Pakistan for addressing the concerns of our community. We also hope that they will endorse our demand for formation of a transparent judicial inquiry into the Jaranwala incident so that such incidents can be prevented from happening in the future,” he said.

The senior church leader also condemned the recent attacks in Hangu, Mastung, and other places and urged all political and religious organisations to unite to safeguard the country’s security and stability.
“No religion permits the killing of innocent individuals. The incidents in Hangu, Bajaur, Peshawar, and other places show that the perpetrators of terrorism have no regard for human lives. We stand with our state and urge it to hold these individuals accountable for their actions,” he said.

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