Letter of concern regarding the attacks against Christians in Pakistan
To Mr Asif Ali Zardari President of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan
Geneva, 3 August 2009
I am writing this to bring to your kind attention a matter of serious concern regarding the ongoing attacks against the Christians in the Punjab Province, especially the most recent attack against the Christians in Gojra. It is with great shock and sadness that we received the news that seven people belonging to the Christian community in Gojra were burned alive and forty houses of Christians have been torched by militant Islamic groups, following an intensive and organized attack against the Christian settlements in Gojra Town on the morning of 1 August 2009.
As Your Excellency is aware, this is the third incident of this kind in the last two months in Punjab Province in which settlements of Christian communities were attacked. According to reports we received only a few weeks ago, several houses belonging to Christians were set on fire in Kasur. We have been informed that most victims belong to poor rural folks and security forces are unwilling to take action against the culprits. The killings and destruction of houses could have been avoided if the police and security forces were vigilant and had taken timely action against the militant Islamic groups who constantly threaten the Christian minorities with false allegations of "desecrating the Quran", and try to use the controversial blasphemy laws against them. Various local and international human rights groups and civil society organizations have repeatedly confirmed that that the blasphemy laws in Pakistan are being used as an excuse to victimize the minority Christians in your nation. Several innocent Christians who have been charged under these controversial laws continue to languish in jails pending trial.
The Gojra carnage of 1 August, the latest in a series of organized attacks against Christians reconfirms the fear that the government is constantly failing to protect its citizens who frequently face attack by militant Islamic groups. The Federal Minister for Minorities himself stated that there was no truth to allegations that the Holy Quran had been defiled and accused the police of ignoring his appeal to provide protection to Christians under threat in Gojra.
Your Excellency, the World Council of Churches views the Gojra massacre and the riots that took place over the last three days as a matter of serious concern. We believe that it is the responsibility of the State to provide security to all its citizens in the country, particularly in a region where communal tensions and chances for violence run a high risk. We appeal to Your Excellency to take necessary actions against the perpetrators who are responsible for committing grave and unjustifiable attacks against innocent Christian minorities in Gojra. We also appeal to Your Excellency to ensure the safety and security of the victims of the riots. It is our fervent hope and prayer that the situation in Gojra will return to normalcy very soon.
Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia