PAKISTAN: Gojra riot prompts calls for repeal of Blasphemy Laws

Gojra Fire The World Council of Churches (WCC) has called for the repeal of Pakistan’s controversial Blasphemy Laws following the riots in the town of Gojra in early August in which eight Christians were killed.

The WCC said it considered the law has become “a major source of victimisation and persecution” of religious minorities who are living “in a state of fear and terror” and called on Pakistan to “guarantee the rights of all religious minorities in the country.”

The governor of Punjab (the region in which Gojra is located) also called for the repeal of the laws but his call led to nationwide protests by the religious parties of Pakistan on Friday 18 September. Muslim clerics said that the demand to end blasphemy law was in itself “an act of blasphemy.”

There continues to be great tension in Gojra and the surrounding area with Muslim residents demanding the arrest of Christians whom they accuse of provoking the violence. The list of those accused includes Bishop John Samuel of the Church of Pakistan and his two sons Adnan and Sharoon.

Meanwhile, eighteen Muslims arrested in the wake of the Gojra violence under the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA), were released from their local district jail on Saturday 19 September.

Mr. Shabhaz Bhatti, the Federal Minister for Minorities, has pledged that that the government would take strict action against those found guilty of involvement in the violence against Christians. Mr. Bhatti, a Roman Catholic, also said “The growing misuse of blasphemy laws is worrisome and we will review, revisit and amend them to stop their misuse”. (Episcopal News, Assist News, Dawn)