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28 July 2010

Press release

Protest march as pressure on minorities increases in Pakistan

Protest march as pressure on minorities increases in Pakistan

Pakistani Christians in the UK are leading a multi-faith peace rally to call attention to increasing pressure on minorities in Pakistan, following recent killings and threats of violence.

The peaceful rally, organised by the British Pakistani Christian Association and supported by the South Asian Forum of the Evangelical Alliance, is planned for Saturday 31 July, beginning at the Pakistan High Commission at 11 am and progressing towards 10 Downing Street for 1.30 pm. Petitions will be submitted at both the High Commission and at Downing Street and there will be speakers from a range of faith and ethnic backgrounds, led by the former Bishop of Rochester, the Rt Rev Michael Nazir Ali.

On 12 July, a Christian Pastor and his brother, Rashid and Sajid Emmanuel,were falsely accused of blasphemy in Faisalabad, Pakistan. On 22 July, they were assassinated by a young unknown gunman outside the court in which they were to be tried. There has also been mob violence in the area, with shootings and looting.

Pakistan's Federal Minister for Minorities Affairs, Shahbaz Bhatti, came under violent threats from an extremist Islamic organisation, following a hard-hitting press conference held by Mr Bhatti in response to the murders in Faisalabad, and the alleged misuse of the Blasphemy Law.

The rally takes place exactly 12 months after the Christian village of Gojra, a small town north of Lahore, was razed to the ground after reports of blasphemy. The Government promised at the time to rebuild the 120 homes and two churches that were destroyed but this has not been done. No one was arrested or brought to trial despite the police confirming that no blasphemy had occurred. 

Wilson Chowdhry, of the British Pakistani Christian Association, said: "We want to raise a voice for those that have no voice. We are joining with people of all faiths to bring pressure for cultural and social change in Pakistan. We seek reform and repeal of the Blasphemy Law; we urge the Pakistan government to uphold the rule of law; and we pray for our country at this time of instability."

Ram Gidoomal CBE, Chairman of the South Asian Forum, said: "Continuing incidents like these threaten the stability and well being of Pakistan. We urge the Government of Pakistan to act for justice. And we call on the churches in the UK to join us in praying for the peace of Pakistan."

The English Defence League and the Muslim Defence League are holding counter protests on the same day, immediately after the peace rally.  

Wilson Chowdhry said: 'Our protest is one of peace and we pray that our work will not be undermined by the activities of the other protesting groups. We hope for greater western government intervention towards peace in Pakistan, where the volatile political and cultural climate is making life so much worse for minority groups.'

Two online petitions to 10 Downing Street can be accessed at:

http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/stop-the-persecution/

http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/educational-parity-in-pakistan/

Media Enquiries

Danny Webster
Tel: 07766 444 650
Email: d.webster@eauk.org

Notes to Editors

The Evangelical Alliance
We are the largest and oldest body representing the UK’s two million evangelical Christians. For more than 165 years, we have been bringing Christians together and helping them listen to, and be heard by, the government, media and society. We’re here to connect people for a shared mission, whether it’s celebrating the Bible, making a difference in our communities or lobbying the government for a better society. From Skye to Southampton, from Coleraine to Cardiff, we work across 79 denominations, 3,500 churches, 750 organisations and thousands of individual members. And we're not just uniting Christians within the UK – we are a founding member of the World Evangelical Alliance, a global network of more than 600 million evangelical Christians. For more information, go to www.eauk.org.