July 10, 2020
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Anthony T. Lobo

The Bishop of Islamabad-Rawalpindi on the plight of Christians in Pakistan

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Anthony T. Lobo
Is religious fundamentalism in Pakistan responsible for persecution of minorities?
Religious fundamentalism is universal. There are fundamentalists even among Christians; it's wrong to assume only Islam or Hinduism have religious extremists.

Have Christian minorities been persecuted in Pakistan since 1947?
Since the death of Jinnah, Christians have been persecuted. The nationalisation of schools and colleges in 1972, the separate electorate, misuse of blasphemy laws have made life miserable for Christians.

What measures have you adopted to fight persecution?
We've been able to obtain some of the schools and colleges which were nationalised.

What about the separate electorate?
Pakistan adopted separate electorates on the basis of religion. Right now, Christian votes aren't valued by Muslim leaders. But once there's a joint electorate, minorities will not be persecuted.

How has the blasphemy law affected Christians?
More than 40 persons face prosecution under the blasphemy law introduced by Zia-ul-Haq in 1984. Its biggest lacunae is that no 'intention' has to be proved for the crime; a person can be hanged for showing disrespect to the Prophet.

How are the Christians fighting discrimination?
Most young Christians are migrating to the West.

Is the condition of other minorities equally miserable?
Yes. Ahmediyas, Shias and Hindus are persecuted. The Hindus persecuted are landless labourers, mostly Dalits.

What is it like being a priest in an Islamic republic like Pakistan?
We can only preach in churches and not propagate.

How are the relations among different religious communities?
We are holding a dialogue with Islamic leaders including fundamentalists. The talks have been very fruitful.

What do you think of the persecution of Christians in Gujarat?
Like elsewhere, India too has its share of religious fundamentalists.

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