Pakistani blasphemy law a threat to all religions, chairman says

Vatican City, Jan 29, 2014 / 05:27 am (CNA/EWTN News).- During a special round-table meeting last week, various professionals gathered to raise awareness of Pakistan’s extension of the death-penalty for persons who commit crimes against the Koran.

“The consequences of this legislation has been anger against Christians or any other religious believers,” Luca Volonté told CNA in a Jan. 21 interview, “there could be any assault against any normal idea of religious freedom.”

Volonté, chairman of the “Novae Terrae Foundation,” which is a European organization that works to promote the values of life, the family, religious freedom and freedom of education, was one of the speakers present in Rome for a Jan. 21 round table seeking to raise awareness of the increasing dangers the Pakistani Blasphemy law presents.

The round-table, which followed the theme “Blasphemy laws and the death penalty in Pakistan: a conviction for the illiterate,” was organized by all of the associations of Pakistani Christians living in Italy as part of the Church’s ongoing mission in the country.

Under the law, anyone may be condemned to death by hanging for blaspheming against the Koran, and many have already faced unjust consequences by those who manipulate the law, using it as a tool for abusing religious minorities, as well as vengeance between Muslims.

Among those who have faced persecution are a young girl with Downs Syndrome from Islamabad, who was arrested in 2012 for allegedly burning pages in the Koran, as well as the ongoing case of Asia Bibi.

Bibi is a Christian woman who was imprisoned and sentenced to death for violating Pakistan’s strict law, and has been moved to an isolated cell without any windows, sink or toilet because of Muslim threats against her life, while she awaits the answer of an appeal for the death sentence.

Referring to her unjust treatment, Volonté stated that “Asia Bibi is a symbol, a symbol of religious freedom. A symbol, not only for religious freedom in Pakistan, but also everywhere in the world.”

“Sometime, in our history, one person for many different cases, became a symbol of a human right,” the chairman noted, and “in this case, Asia Bibi is a real symbol for any Christian persecuted on behalf of their faith.”

“It is a symbol for Pakistan, a symbol for Asia, but she could also be a symbol for Christians persecuted in Europe.”

Volonté revealed that Bibi has written a letter to Pope Francis regarding her situation, telling him that she is only alive still thanks to the many prayers she has received.

Although the chairman observed that the mainstream media coverage regarding Bibi’s situation has been scarce, he explained that he is still optimistic that the situation regarding Christians in Pakistan will improve.

“We should hope and use any, I hope, diplomatic pressure from the United Nations,” he said, “but also from any bilateral country that has some agreement with Pakistan to convince the Pakistani authorities to delete this blasphemy law.”

This law, which “has also been copied by Indonesia,” Volonté noted, has produced an unjustified anger against Christians, as well as other religions, adding that if it continues, “there could be any assault against any normal idea of religious freedom.”


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