Repeal of blasphemy laws urged by Christians. Naseem Dean.


London. Feb. 13 (PCP Correspondent) President, Pakistan Christian league London, Mr.Naseem Dean, speaking at gathering of christian at Methodist church south Hall said that Christians of pakistan have always demanded the repeal of blasphemy laws on n

He said that letter of gratitude was mailed to government of pakistan on introduction of joint election system in pakistan but Christians around world are surprised on the announcements by the government that sections of Islamic laws in constitution shall not be changed. Mr. Dean condemned the role of church leadership and elected Christians in parliament under separate elections on failure to utilize the development budgets allocated by international funding agencies and government of Pakistan respectively for last decade. He urged Christians in UK to contribute one pound a day for the christian development projects in pakistan to end embezzlement in foreign funding agencies under Bishops supervision. He assured the Christians that south Asian Rehabilitation Association should play positive part in uplift of Christians in Pakistan.

The Christian gathering also passed the resoulation to thank the government on introduction of Joint elections and demanded the repeal of Blasphemy laws in Pakistan. Mr. James Shera, ex mayor of Rugby and Bishop Munnawar Romal Shah were also among the speakers of this meeting. Here Are the Minutes of the meeting about Electoral Reforms, announced by President Pervez Musharraf.

This meeting was arranged by CLAAS (Center for Legal Aid, Assistance & Settlement) in Kings Hall Methodist Church, Southall. & Rev. Elvin Samuel said the opening prayer, to start the programmed. & After agenda for the meeting was presented, the panelists were asked to speak on agenda that for 5-7 minutes. & Bishop Mano Rumalshah, who also being the chairman of the meeting, was the first panelist to speak on the subject. He called the separate electorate system as the de-legalization, and denial of citizenship for Pakistani Christians; and said that it stops their fulfillment as Pakistanis. He said that equal rights is a separate issue than the issue of joint electorate, so talking about reserved Christian seats in the Pakistan Parliament is not relevant here. He said that he was the first person who raised voice on this issue in the General synod of the Church of England. He emphasized that we should happily accept whatever Govt. gives us at this stage, and mentioned about the possibility of dual vote system.

James Shera, the former Mayor of Rugby, was the second panelist to speak on the agenda. He started by agreeing with what Bishop Mano had already said. He mentioned that if the Afghanistan issue had not come up, the issue of joint electorate wasn't going to be raised in the first place. He also passionately mentioned that how the blood of the Bahawalpur martyrs has a substantial contribution in bringing about joint electorate system. He reminded the audience that how Blasphemy law & the increased religious prejudice were the by-products of separate electorate in Pakistan. He said that the Christian witness had become poorer because of the alienatation that was brought by the separate electorate. He said that after the joint electorate, now even Muslim representatives would be able to help Christian victims of Blasphemy laws. He said that Muslims as minority won't accept separate electorate either. Mr. James Shera also cautioned about the ground reality, that so far no Political party in Pakistan has welcomes the amendments brought by the military Govt. in Pakistan. He made a comment on Bishop Mano's point about dual vote; and said that people talk about dual vote for Kashmiris, and it is fine with everyone, but when dual vote is mentioned for the Pakistani Christians, then it is a problem.

Emmanuel Zafar, former Christian MNA, who was supposed to be the third Panelist, couldn't join due to some unknown reasons. Therefore after Bishop Mano & James Shera's presentations, the floor was opened for questions & comments from the audience, and for general discussion on the Agenda.

The first comment came from Dr. Naseem Dean (from Slough), who said that if our Christian MNA & MPA's ripped the nations and ran overseas, then we need to see if we have any capable people.

George Lewis (from Bristol) raised two issues after generally agreeing with the panelists. He first emphasized the need for awareness among Christians in Pakistan, and commented that it would help Christians hold a balance of power in the country. His second point was a question, that would a Pakistan Christian Forum be able to help us all?

James Shera responded to George Lewis's question, and said that in the past even Muslims used to trust us; but now we have all those ills, which Muslims had too. He emphasized the need for awareness about Christianity in Pakistan first. He also said that though Qaid-e-Azam used to drink and eat pork, but he gave Muslims a homeland to live, something which no mullah could ever do that. Regarding the Pakistan Christian forum, he expressed his concern that these kinds of forums don't last very long; unless there is very deep commitment about it within some individuals.

Rev. Elvin Samuel (from Southall) asked that how we can welcome the decision of joint electorate by the Pakistan Government?

Bishop Mano said that the Churches have too much politics in them, but at the same time they discourage the active participation in politics.

Alex Chaudhry (from East London) asked the panelists, that what positive & practical steps we can take to move forward as Pakistani Christians.

James Shera responded to Alex by proposing two practical steps. (1) We should help at least two people in our family get educated in Pakistan. (2) We should help our families start businesses, like helping them buy Rickshaws etc.

Bishop Mano at this point mentioned that 35 lakh rupees go every year from UK for the education of Christian students.

Mrs. Nurjahan Shera said that often in our meetings, we come, talk, drink tea and go home; and never do anything practical positively. She also mentioned the ground reality of Pakistani Christians scattered all over UK. She mentioned the need for raising our voice within Pakistan too, by educating our people.

Edgar Money (from Southall) emphasized the need for a computer-training center for Christians in Lahore.

Col. Mubarak (from Leicester) said that what practically do we need to do? James Shera responded by proposing four points. (1) We should demand for 25% seats for Christian students in Church schools. (2) We should thank President Musharraf for the Joint electorate, and should demand for the repeal of Blasphemy laws. (3) We should demand Quota for Pakistani Christians in Civil, judicial and military posts. (4) Political parties should be encouraged to give safe election tickets to Pakistani Christians. These four points were agreed by all the participants to be accepted as the resolution of the meeting.

James Shera said while commenting on the role of Pakistani Christians in the UK, that we should actively participate in the local UK politics. He also emphasized the need for Pakistani Christians to take the role of school governors in the UK.

Nasir Saeed (Coordinator CLAAS) briefed the audience about the work of CLAAS, and urged them to be a part of this project by subscribing to their newsletter; through keeping in tough, praying for them & and becoming financial partners with the work of CLAAS.

Rev. Noble Samuel closed the event with prayer.

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