International Religious Freedom (IRF) Roundtable Chair for Pakistan, Anila Ali, along with the IRF Pakistan team, visited the churches burnt by angry mobs in Jaranwala, Punjab Province of Pakistan. Ms. Ali and her IRF Pakistan team was warmly welcomed by the Christian community leaders in the area. Ali, who is also the president of the American Muslim and Multifaith Women’s Empowerment Council, AMMWEC, visited many families whose homes had been burned down on
During her visit, Ms. Ali, spoke at length with pastors and church leaders along with women and children and heard their harrowing stories of hiding in the nearby fields, as their homes and lives were brutally torched to the ground on August 16th, 2023.
Ali discussed the many challenges that they previously faced which have now multiplied after the horrific attacks. The Christian leaders expressed their gratitude to the IRF Roundtable Pakistan team for its support and advocacy on behalf of religious minorities in Pakistan. They expressed their concerns about about the increasing incidents of misuse of blasphemy law against them, and the growing state of intolerance and hate against minorities.
The leaders of the Christian community showed great appreciation for the timely response of the caretaker government and the immediate visits by the Caretaker Prime Minister of Pakistan, Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar, the Chief of Army Staff, Syed Asim Munir, and the incoming Chief Justice of Pakistan, Qazi Faez Isa. They also thanked and commended the Muslim religious leaders who poured in to support them at a critical time, many of whom are part of the IRF Roundtable Pakistan.
“These visits by the Muslim clergy, government leaders and the army chief, made us feel like someone cares,” said one of the women who had spent the entire night in the field. “Although the police failed to protect, some of the Muslim neighbors hid us in their homes,” she added.
Ms. Ali assured the Christian community that the IRF Roundtable Pakistan will continue to support and advocate for the rights of religious minorities in Pakistan. She also urged the Christian leaders to continue to send the children to school and “not be afraid, to ask your leaders to continue to provide more armed troops and guards until everyone feels safe to leave their homes, Ali said, recalling 9/11 how they worked with their US local and federal government to secure their mosques.
“Pakistan is your land and you are the sons and daughters of the soil. The founder of Pakistan, Quaid-e-Azam, passionately believed in equality, respect and full inclusion of the minorities. Do not be afraid, she added. The Quaid knew what it was like to be a persecuted minority and that is why he created Pakistan. He said:
“You are free; you are free to go to your temples. You are free to go to your mosques or to any other places of worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion, caste or creed—that has nothing to do with the business of the state.”
“I would like to see Pakistani government provide armed security for the churches as until the people feel safe to send theirs kids to school, go to work and get their lives back to normal, ” said Ali, “the atmosphere is still very tense and the community is still very vulnerable.”
Ali visited the homes being rebuilt by AlKhidmat Foundation, the religious political party in Pakistan, and spoke tot he staff and volunteers and appreciated their service.
IRF Roundtable Pakistan team met with the new caretaker Human Rights Minister, Mr. Khalil George, a Christian Pakistani, who assured IRF RT team of ensuring that justice is served and assured the team that his caretaker government will not rest until the culprits are punished.
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