The Catholic Church in England and Wales has urged the British Government to “make strong representations” to Pakistan about the need to protect its minorities from persecution.
Bishop Declan Lang of Clifton, chairman of the bishops’ Department for International Affairs, referred to recent “mob attacks” against Christians in Sandha, saying they showed “life is only becoming harder” for the country’s minorities.
He said: “Without meaningful action from the authorities to tackle hate speech, end impunity and prevent misuse of blasphemy laws, more people will lose their dignity, their homes and their lives.
“It is reassuring that our own Foreign Secretary [Philip Hammond] has explicitly promised not to stand by while people are killed, abused or discriminated against because of their faith.
“I hope that the British government will make strong representations to Pakistan about the vital need to protect those most vulnerable to abuse,” the bishop said.
Last month prosecutors in Pakistan’s Punjab province charged 106 people in connection with a mob killing of a Christian couple – Sajjad Mesih and his wife, Shama – who were burned to death for allegedly desecrating a copy of the Koran.
Legislators in Pakistan are seeking to prevent such mob killings by introducing severe penalties against those who make false allegations of blasphemy. The Mesih couple were later found to be innocent.
The most well-known victim of the blasphemy laws is Asia Bibi, who was sentenced to death for alleged blasphemy five years ago, a judgment upheld by the Supreme Court late last year. Two politicians – Salmaan Taseer and Shahbaz Bhatti – were assassinated after speaking out on her behalf.