Pakistan will overcome religious discrimination, Zardari tells Pope. By: Gretta Curtis


Pakistan: October 2, 2009. (CHRISTIANTODAY India and Christian Post) Asif Ali Zardari has promised Pope Benedict XVI

Thursday that discrimination based on religion will be overcome in his country; amid a call by Christian organisations to start movement against blasphemy law this month. President Zardari and the Pope were meeting at the pontiff's summer residence in Castel Gandolfo, Italy, where they discussed topics including security and freedom of religion. A statement released by the Vatican Press Office states that “The cordial discussions provided an opportunity to examine the current situation in Pakistan, with particular reference to the fight against terrorism and the commitment to create a society more tolerant and harmonious in all its aspects. “Talk then turned to the positive role played by the Catholic Church - continues the statement - in the social life of the country through her educational, healthcare and aid activities,” said the statement. “Evoking recent episodes of violence against Christian communities in some localities, and the elements that have favoured such serious incidents, emphasis was given to the need to overcome all forms of discrimination based on religious affiliation, with the aim of promoting respect for the rights of all citizens.” According to AsiaNews, the same argument was also addressed by Zardari in his talks with Italian politicians, in which the Pakistani president said the government of his country will take steps against the abuse of the blasphemy law. Moreover, on 18 September, during a state visit to London, Zardari had promised greater government vigilance, but human rights organizations in Pakistan say the president's words remain an unrealistic goal that ignores the reality of the situation. Pakistani Christians, spearheaded by Pakistan Christian Congress (PCC) has been campaigning against blasphemy law, they said the law created to defend offenses against Islam and the Prophet, has become an instrument of discrimination and predatory violence. PCC has called upon Christians in the country to chart out strategies to launch a bigger movement against the blasphemy law on 24 October. According to Pakistan Penal code “Use of derogatory remarks, etc in respect of the Holy Prophet; whoever by words, either spoken or written or by visible representation, or by any imputation, innuendo, or insinuation, directly or indirectly, defiles the sacred name of the Holy Prophet Mohammed shall be punished with death, or imprisonment for life, and shall also be liable to fine.” PCC said it has often been used to settle personal scores against Christians and other religious minorities. On July 29, Christian village of Korian in Punjab province was attacked by a Muslim mob after a Christian was accused of desecrating Koran, the Muslim holy book. Dozens of Christian homes were destroyed. Another blasphemy charge repeated on Aug. 1, when a mob of more than 2,000 Muslims burned the homes of Christians in Gojra city in Punjab province. Eight Christians were killed. The incident drew an international outcry. World Council of Churches (WCC) had also written to the Pakistani government to look into the law.

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