'The worst discrimination is not being considered on equal terms as other citizens,' says Mgr Joseph Coutts, Archbishop of Karachi and President of the Pakistani Bishops’ Conference, as he describes the daily lives of Pakistani Christians.
- Aid to the Church In Need/Vatican Insider
The latest attack on the Anglican church in Peshawar alone, left at least 126 dead and more than 150 injured. Why all this hatred against Christians?
'What happened in Peshawar is a first because the terrorist attack on the Christian community, was intended as a message to the United States to stop their drone missions inside Pakistani airspace at once. If they do not stop, terrorists have threatened to attack numerous other churches. You need to understand that these groups identify Christians with the West and are therefore convinced that they can put pressure on Washington by threatening or attacking our community.;
How much religious freedom do minorities enjoy in Pakistan today? What are the concrete things Christians cannot do?
'The Constitution guarantees us many freedoms that we do enjoy such as being able to manage schools and hospitals. But within our society we are not considered to be on equal terms with other citizens. Christians are discriminated against at work and young Christians in state schools are penalised in their studies or are put under pressure to convert to Islam.'
Why is it proving impossible to get rid of liberticidal laws such the blasphemy law?
'The blasphemy law was created to protect the honour of the prophet Muhammad and protect the Quran from desecration. Any attempt to abolish the law would provoke strong opposition from the Muslim community. It’s not so much the law that’s the problem; the problem is its improper use and the emotional reactions that accusations of blasphemy can bring about. Once an individual has been accused of blasphemy, it is practically impossible for that person to prove their innocence. In the rare cases that the accused in acquitted, both this person and the judge risk being killed.'
What is the government doing to protect minorities aside from issuing formal declarations?
'After the Peshawar bombing the government offered to send security guards to protect our churches. But there is little the authorities can do in cases like this. Fundamentalists are fighting against the Pakistani government because they want Pakistan to become an Islamic theocracy. Before the attack on All Saints Church, they had already carried out other attacks against the army, the police and the institutions.'
FULL STORY Pakistan's Christians are victims of terror