At an August 26 to September 2 meeting in Geneva, the WCC’s governing body, its central committee issued a public statement calling on Pakistan to “guarantee the rights of all religious minorities in the country.”
The WCC public statement was entitled, “The misuse of the Blasphemy Law and the security of religious minorities in Pakistan.” The church council said it considered the law has become “a major source of victimization and persecution” of religious minorities who are living “in a state of fear and terror.”
Since the penal code of Pakistan was amended in 1986, “Christians in particular have become targets of harassments and persecutions,” says the statement approved by the WCC committee. It also noted that some human rights organizations have said charges against non-Muslims can be based on malicious accusations, “often with the motivation to have people imprisoned to gain advantage in business or land disputes.”
Blasphemy against the prophet Muhammad is punishable by death under the law of Pakistan, which is overwhelmingly Muslim, although nobody has been executed for it. Courts have acquitted those accused of blasphemy in more than 100 cases after overruling lower tribunals. However some lawyers have said that non-Muslims they defended, including Christians, had been killed while awaiting trial.
Christian leaders in Pakistan have been warning for some time that unless the blasphemy law is abolished, unjustified attacks on Christians will continue as the law is often exploited to settle disputes with Christians and others in Pakistan, where 97 percent of the 175 million people are Muslim.
Non-Muslims have said that since 1986, attacks against religious minorities have been exacerbated, and an atmosphere of violence motivated by religious issues exists in various regions in Pakistan.
On August 11 Pakistan churches held a day of protest against the deaths of at least seven Christians in Gojra city in central Punjab after they were attacked by a Muslim mob and threats were made against their members.
The WCC statement noted that under the Blasphemy Law, the concept of “blasphemy” establishes that any person accused is immediately placed in detention and can be sentenced to death. From 1988 to 2005, 647 people have been accused of violating this law, but cases have increased in recent years.
The WCC noted that General Secretary Samuel Kobia had in a letter to the Pakistan government following the Gojra attacks warned of “militant Islamic groups who constantly threaten the Christian minorities with false allegations.”
The WCC said that discriminatory actions and attacks against religious minorities are in violation of Article 36 of the constitution of Pakistan, which guarantees the legitimate rights of minorities.
In its statement, WCC recalled the words of the Pakistan’s founder, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, when the country was created, that “minorities are a sacred trust of Pakistan.”