ASIA/PAKISTAN-More than 160 indicted and 9 killed for "blasphemy" in 2011; 1,800 Christian and Hindu girls converted to Islam by force
Lahore (Agenzia Fides) - The controversial blasphemy law continues to claim victims in Pakistan, while religious minorities suffer from rampant extremism. In 2011, because of the "black law" (composed of the articles 295b and 295c of the Penal Code), at least 161 people were indicted and 9 were killed with extrajudicial executions, the victims of blasphemy accusations. Such accusations, said a Muslim lawyer recently, anonymous for security reasons, "are false in 95% of cases".
According to a report sent to Fides by the Asian Human Rights Commission, an NGO which monitors human rights on the continent, "Pakistan has failed to ensure respect for human rights for its people". The Commission documented in 2011 the killing of 18 human rights activists and 16 journalists, engaged in a work of denunciation of the evils of society, corruption and Islamic extremism.
The year 2011 saw the killing of high profile personalities, such as the governor of Punjab, Salman Taseer and the Federal Minister for minorities, Shabhaz Bhatti, "murders committed by religious extremist groups infiltrated in the police force", notes the Commission. "The state played an ambiguous role to appease the religious extremism and remained a silent spectator of such killings" is what is underlined. "This government's ineptitude - the text continues - has favored forced conversion to Islam of girls from minority religious groups: in total, in 2011, about 1,800 girls between Hindus and Christians, were forced to convert to Islam, with means such as kidnapping and rape".
The Report, recalling the 161 indicted and 9 killed for "blasphemy", notes that "the government has not made any progress on the draconian blasphemy law, which has cost many lives". "Authorities -it states - have taken on, in secret, a paternalistic attitude towards the militant groups. The courts have proven to be friends of the militants and terrorists. In many cases the terrorists were released by the courts, under the guise of formal or procedural deficiencies". The text also mentions hundreds of "honor killing" deaths, the increase in sectarian violence in Karachi (1,800 deaths in 2011) and Baluchistan (225 deaths, more than 6,000 missing).
The Commission also criticized the absence of a reform of the criminal justice system. The current criminal justice system exists in parallel with the Sharia laws: "The rule of law has deteriorated because of this system", he concludes. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 16/01/2012)
Lahore (Agenzia Fides) - The government has released new figures which are not official (the last official census dates back to 1998) regarding the composition of Pakistani society: according to recent sociological research, it is estimated that religious minorities in Pakistan today amount to about 8 million people out of a population of 172 million inhabitants. The largest group among the minorities is Hindus, with about 4.2 million people, while 3.9 million are Christians, Sikhs are about 15 thousand. Other much smaller religious communities are Parsi, Baha'i and Ahmadi, with about 5,000 members.
In a recent Memorandum - sent to the Federal Ministry for Human Rights and sent to Fides - the Commission "Justice and Peace" of the Episcopal Conference of Pakistan states that "the issue of minorities is crucial in the nation". Therefore "changes in the Constitution and laws and policies to ensure the restoration of civil, political, social, cultural and economic rights to minorities" is urgent. The Commission seeks to establish a special "Commission for Human Rights and Minorities", with the powers of a Court, and to invite the UN Special Observer for religious Tolerance in the country.
The Justice and Peace Commission also notes the presence of discrimination and prejudice against minorities in the education system. "Pakistan - it says - is a democratic country, but its legal structure resembles a theocratic state" in which "the Constitution does not explicitly recognize ethnic and religious minorities, although it refers to minorities in several steps". The Bishops' Commission also denounces the widespread phenomenon of "land grabbing" (subtraction of land) concerning the properties of religious minorities (land, places of worship, buildings) as what happened recently to the Caritas complex in Lahore (see Fides 11/01/2012). (PA) (Agenzia Fides 16/01/2012)
Bangalore (Agenzia Fides) - Twenty Christians were attacked and beaten, the Protestant Pastor Srirangam Shanthakumar of the "Agape Church", was wounded and his finger was cut off. This is the toll of the final attack carried out by a group of Hindu extremists which took place at Anekal, a rural village in the district of Bangalore in Karnataka state, southern India. As reported to Fides by the "Global Council of Indian Christians", an organization that monitors the rights of Christians in India. In past days Pastor Shanthakumar, who has a wife and two children, was leading a prayer vigil at the residence of a believer of his community when a group of about 20 Hindu radicals stormed in the house, attacking the people present with sticks and iron bars. As they were beating up the Christians, the radicals accused the believers to forcibly convert Hindu believers to Christianity. Many faithful were injured, one of the Pastor's fingers on his left hand was cut off and a believer has serious head injuries and damage to his right hand. The Hindu militants then fled quickly. The Pastor and the faithful reported the incident to the police and were taken to the hospitals in area.
Confirming these episodes, today a new report on anti-Christian violence in India was released by the "Evangelical Fellowship of India", which brings together hundreds of evangelical denominations. The Report, sent to Fides, confirms Karnataka as the most violent and insecure state, reporting 140 serious episodes of persecution against Christians, characterized by false allegations of "forced conversions". The Report calls for the state to ensure the protection of Indian Christians and respect for religious freedom in the country. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 16/01/2012)