Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Solidarity rally for religious freedom

The All Pakistan Minorities Alliance (APMA) is going to hold a ‘National Solidarity Rally’ on August 11 at the Mīnār-ĕ Pākistān in Lahore.

A huge gathering of people from minority communities, including Christians, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Parsees, should come.

Organisers expect about 100,000 people from all over Pakistan, brought together by the same desire to see discriminatory laws abolished, including the blasphemy law, as well as the protection of equal rights and religious freedom.

In announcing the event APMA chairman, Shahbaz Bhatti, quoted from Pakistan’s founding father, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, who in his address to the Constituent Assembly on August 11, 1947, said: “You are free; you are free to go to your temples. You are free to go to your mosques or to any other places of worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion, caste or creed—that has nothing to do with the business of the State . . . . We are starting with this fundamental principle that we are all citizens and citizens of one state””

Despite Ali Jinnah’s dream for a modern secular Pakistan (in which Muslim clergy played no role), the founder’s successors paid no heed to his wishes. They used religion to centralize power and divide society, adopting in the end inhuman legislation and laws that persecute and victimise minorities.

“Today,” Mr Bhatti said, “Christians and religious minorities in Pakistan are facing serious challenges on different fronts. Their basic rights are denied and religious freedom is curtailed. They are persecuted, victimised, terrorised and hated due to their faith. The blasphemy and other discriminatory laws violate all standards of human rights and democratic norms; they are naked swords hanging over our heads. There is a greater need for unity among Christians and religious minorities to overcome these challenges, including extremism, terrorism and religious intolerance.”

With this purpose in mind APMA has been organising for some time seminars, conferences and public demonstrations in various cities to focus public attention on the issue of persecution and atrocities committed against Christians and members of other religious minorities.

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