About 200 Pakistani Christians have asked the Catholic Church for help to secure political asylum in Sri Lanka. For almost three years, these refugees have been stranded in Negombo (Western Province) without help from the local government.
is especially problematic for the more than 50 children who cannot go to
school, and for young people who are likely to become victims of crime.
did not want to leave Pakistan," some of them told AsiaNews, "but as Christians, there is no peace in our
community of refugees has been supported by members of the Catholic clergy in
Negombo, in particular by the Claretian Sisters, the Sisters of the Holy
Family, and the Sisters the Good Shepherd, as well as Dominican and the
Claretian priests. Fr Terrance
Bodiyabaduge is in charge of coordinating and distributing the aid provided by
Two days ago,
the church of Kudapaduwa celebrated a special Mass in Urdu for the refugees. At
the end of the service, the representatives of the clergy met to present their
most urgent demands.
"We want to
make an appeal to the international community," they said, "to change Pakistan's
discriminatory laws and help obtain asylum in Sri Lanka on religious, social
and economic grounds."
that the Sri Lankan government will not help these people," Fr Bodiyabaduge told
AsiaNews. "Only the Catholic Church
can do something for them."
Sharoon John, a
young Pakistani Christian, told AsiaNews
that in Pakistan, "We are treated as enemies. Wherever we go, we are not
respected. For example, if I wanted to join the police force I would have to
bribe some official despite my qualifications just because I am Christian. I
can also think of the many threats that we receive if one of us wants to marry
a Muslim man or woman."
One of the
greatest threats to their lives are the so-called "blasphemy laws", whereby
anyone who desecrates the Qur'an or insults Muhammad can be sentenced to death.
these rules," the Christians noted, "many of our Christian brothers and sisters
have fled to other countries to save themselves. Those who did not make it were
either killed or jailed for life."