Brussels [Belgium], August 24: Pakistan Christians community Europe staged a protest demonstration in front of the European Parliament in Brussels to show solidarity with Christian victims of the Jaranwala violence that occurred in Pakistan.
In the protest, the protesters expressed grave concerns over the religious freedom violations and stifling state of freedom of expression in Pakistan and called upon the European Union to assess Pakistan’s compliance with its human rights obligations.
Speaking at the protest, Joseph Jansen advocacy officer with Jubilee Campaign Netherlands said that we appreciate that the EU is committed to providing emergency humanitarian assistance to support Christians affected by the Jaranwala incident.
He added, “The EU must urge Pakistani authorities to ensure the safety of those accused of blasphemy in the Jaranwala incident and ensure that the accused have access to legal representation for a fair trial. Moreover, Pakistan must take measures to implement the recommendations of the judicial inquiry held in the Gojra incident of 2009, in order to prevent the misuse of blasphemy laws.”
Arif Sardar while commenting on the atrocities on minorities in Pakistan said repressive blasphemy laws create a climate of hostility against religious minorities and fertile ground for radicals.
He said, “Every person should have the right to religious freedom without fear of persecution, and nobody should be persecuted for living out their faith. The repressive blasphemy laws create a climate of hostility against religious minorities, and fertile ground for radicals to wreak havoc against those whom they perceive as blasphemers. Pakistan must take measures to detect and counter acts of incitement to hatred, discrimination, and violence against individuals and groups.”
Perviaz Bhatti, one of the protesters said that religion should never be invoked as a justification for targeting persons belonging to minorities. The correlation between blasphemy laws and mob violence plague and threaten the lives of religious minorities. The scale and severity of the attacks against minorities in Pakistan is unconscionable.
A total of 19 churches were fully gutted and 89 Christian houses burnt down in recent violence targeting the Christian community in Jaranwala in Faisalabad, according to a fact-finding report of the Human Rights Focus Pakistan (HRFP).
The HRFP report stated that in the August 16 Jaranwala mob attack on churches and Christians, a total of 19 churches were burnt fully while two churches and some prayer rooms/community halls were also affected.
It further said over 400 houses were affected in total with 89 Christian houses including those of pastors and priests being completely gutted while 15 houses were partially destroyed.
The report stated that over 10,000 Christians had hid in sugar cane and other fields, during the first nights of attack.
The HRFP said its report was based on direct information and evidence through the fact-finding mission trip to the sites of the incident, interviews of victims, families, local residents, church leaders, neighbourhoods, journalists, police officials, local authorities, political workers and different stakeholders.
The HRFP team met in person with more than 150 victims and families and church leaders who shared their stories about victimizations and religious persecutions, losses and immediate needs to help them urgently and for a longer time.