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Church leaders urge Pakistan to protect people regardless of faith

Church leaders and at least two Christian organizations have called on the Pakistani government to protect its citizens and make “lasting measures” to end religious intolerance.

The calls have stemmed from the death of a Pakistani Christian who was murdered by his Muslim neighbor in TV Colony in Peshawar.

The victim, who was identified as Nadeem Joseph died after he and his mother-in-law, Elizabeth Masih, were shot several times on June 4, days after the family moved into TV Colony.

The alleged attackers — identified as Salman Khan and his sons — who lived across from Joseph’s house were reportedly “unhappy” when they found out that the Christian family had moved into the neighborhood.

The neighbors reportedly demanded that Joseph and his family vacate the place because Christians are supposedly not allowed to live in a Muslim neighborhood.

“Nadeem’s family is in difficulty and in danger after this attack,” said Archbishop Joseph Arshad chairman of the National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP), within the Pakistan Catholic Bishops’ Conference, in a joint NCJP statement sent to Agenzia Fides.

“The government must ensure security and protection for them and for all religious minorities,” said the statement cosigned by NCJP chairman Father Emmanuel Yousaf and its executive director Cecil S. Chaudhry.

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“Pakistani society has become increasingly intolerant and living as a religious minority is becoming more and more difficult,” it read.

“There are many similar incidents that are not reported. Religious minorities continue to face discrimination as part of their daily lives,” it added.

Agenzia Fides reported that police have made several arrests over the murder.

Catholics after attending Mass at Mary Immaculate Church in Lahore on June 7. (Photo by Arif Ali/AFP)

Michelle Chaudhry, president of The Cecil & Iris Chaudhry Foundation, also condemned “this horrific act of violence.”

Chaudry called on authorities to “ensure safety and protection of all Pakistanis regardless of faith, caste or gender.”

She said “the bigoted mindset, nurtured over decades is very deeply rooted” in Pakistan’s society.

Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CWS), an international human rights organization with focus on freedom of religion, called on the government of Pakistan “to take lasting measures to reverse this endemic hatred and intolerance.”

CWS chief executive Mervyn Thomas said the incident “illustrates just how vulnerable religious minorities are in Pakistan.”

He noted that the level of hate and intolerance against religious minorities in the country “has been allowed to fester and take root.”

CSW noted that Pakistan’s Christian minority “faces endemic discrimination in all aspects of life, including in the employment and education sectors.”

The group claimed that religious minorities in the country “are regularly targeted with sectarian hate speech.”

“Attacks on the community continue to occur in a climate of impunity and inadequate government intervention,” CWS added.

Muslims constitute 96 percent of Pakistan’s total population of 212 million while Christians make up only 1.6 percent.

According to Open Doors USA’s 2020 World Watch List, Pakistan is fifth in the world’s worst country when it comes to Christian persecution.

The U.S. State Department’s 2019 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Pakistan said that “societal violence due to religious intolerance remained a serious problem” in the country.

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