Pakistan church calls for an end to religious violence

The leader of the Methodist Church in Britain has welcomed movesby Church leaders in Pakistan which call on the Pakistanigovernment to end religious violence in the country.

This year, violent attacks against Christians have left many deadand made hundreds of families homeless, as many more fear for theirsafety. Church leaders in Pakistan have formed a Christian ActionForum to address the problem and are lobbying their Government toact to end the violence.

The Revd Dr Martyn Atkins, General Secretary of the MethodistChurch in Britain, said, "I welcome this announcement and want toadd my voice to theirs in calling for serious and credible effortsfrom the Government to stem the violence against religiousminorities. I also want to extend my sympathy to the families ofthose who have lost loved ones in the recent violentattacks."

Martyn affirmed the right of all people to live in safety andworship freely, encouraging Christians to pray for the Church andpeople of Pakistan, especially on Sunday which is the 39thanniversary of the founding of the United Church of Pakistan.

Steve Pearce, Partnership Coordinator for Asia, is currently inPakistan and yesterday attended a press conference given by theModerator of the Church of Pakistan, Bishop Samuel Azariah, and theRoman Catholic Archbishop of Lahore, His Grace Lawrence JohnSaldanha. At the conference, Church leaders called for the repealof laws which encourage crime and discrimination, especially thecontroversial blasphemy laws, which have been used to justifyviolence against Christians.

Steve said, "There is considerable tension in the country followingindiscriminate suicide bombings and the assassination of aprovincial government minister. All schools must now have armedguards, establishments where girls are educated are particularlyworried and many church meetings are being cancelled. It is late inthe evening now, and I can hear gunfire in nearby streets."

Speaking after the press conference, Bishop Azariah commented, "Themost important thing about the new Forum is that Christian leadersare now struggling together for the establishment of democraticvalues in Pakistan and fighting against the discriminatory lawsbeing used against the religious minorities."

Martyn also invited Methodists in Britain to lobby theirrepresentatives at the national and European parliaments toquestion the Pakistan government about the protection of the rightsof minorities in the country. He welcomed the contribution ofPakistani Christians to the life of the Methodist Church in Britainand encouraged local congregations across Britain to offer pastoralsupport to them during this difficult time.