01 March 2016, The Tablet

Archbishop of Karachi: Pakistani Christians called to love amid violence

Christian institutions and churches in Pakistan have been warned that an attack by ISIS could be imminent

Pakistani Christians are called to bear witness to peace and love amid violence, terrorism and discrimination, Archbishop Joseph Coutts of Karachi told the Vatican News Agency Fides yesterday.

"As Pakistani Christians we face numerous challenges every day: many will have heard of the so-called blasphemy law and the emblematic case of Asia Bibi, an innocent Christian mother sentenced to death. Our daily mission is to bear witness to peace and to love where there is so much violence in this country torn apart by terrorism. As Christians our mission is love and love of Christ helps us not to lose hope," Archbishop Coutts said.

The archbishop spoke to Fides in Italy where he was attending a ceremony marking the fifth anniversary of the death of Shahbaz Bhatti, a Catholic member of parliament murdered in 2011 for opposing Pakistan's harsh blasphemy laws.

"He spoke with faith and demonstrated courage. Thanks to him the voice of Pakistan's Christians was heard. He paved the way for us. He was a good Catholic and gave his life for his mission," Coutts said of Bhatti.

Just days before Catholic peer, Lord Alton, called on the British Government to do more to protect Pakistani Christians. He said that Christians, Ahmadis and Hindus face a real risk of persecution in Pakistan and that the British Home Office’s Country Information and Guidance about Pakistani Christians and Christian converts did not reflect that reality.

In September, Christian institutions and churches were warned that an attack by ISIS could be imminent and in Pakistan this week a street protest was sparked after 30,000 turned up for the funeral of Mumtaz Qadri, who received the death penalty for murdering the governor of Punjab, Salman Taseer, who, like Bhatti, fought for reforms of the blasphemy law. Taseer's murderer is regarded as a hero by some Islamist groups.

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