Protesters burn a Swedish flag during a demonstration in Muzaffarabad (AFP or licensors)

By Lisa Zengarini

Jul 5 2023

Church leaders in Pakistan voice concern for the safety of Christians in the country after the desecration of the Muslim holy book on 28 June during a demonstration in the Swedish capital Stockholm.

Catholic Church leaders in Pakistan have asked authorities for protection after threats launched by a banned Islamist group in the wake of the Quran burning incident in Stockholm last week which has sparked protests in several countries.

Threats from Lashkar-e-Jhangvi

Uca News agency has reported that an official of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Pakistan said the National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP) has alerted authorities against a threatening reactions from Sunni militant group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (or “Army of Jhangvi”) calling for revenge by waging suicide attacks on Christians, and saying it will make Pakistan “a hell for Christianity”.

The executive director of the Bishops’ Commission, Naeem Yousaf Gill, said the Church in Pakistan condemns the desecration of the Quran in Sweden. “As a religious minority we live in brotherhood and peace and have always supported the majority. We can’t imagine violating sensitive laws,” he said.

Concerns for security of Christians in Pakistan

Meanwhile on July 3, Father Khalid Rashid Asi, Faisalabad diocesan director of the Commission for Interfaith Dialogue and Ecumenism, met with police officials in the district’s Madina Town, home to nearly 4,000 Christians. 

He also asked all priests in the diocese to contact their respective police stations for the security of their parishes, convents, schools and other departments.

Father Asi told UCA news that the Quran burnings must stop: ”As humans”, he said, “we must all respect the holy books and strive for a culture of peace and harmony.”

He recalled the 2009 anti-Christian surge in Punjab province in which Lashkar-e-Jhangvi supporters attacked Christian homes leaving 10 Catholics dead, following allegations that a copy of the Quran had been desecrated.

Pakistani Christians targeted by terrorist attacks for over 20 years

Pakistani Christians, often viewed as Western agents, have been the target of several terrorist attacks in Pakistan since the U.S. invasion of neighbouring Afghanistan in 2001 and the release of the anti-Islamic film Innocence of Muslims in 2012.

In the latest incident in Stockholm, on June 28, an Iraqi-born Swedish citizen tore pages out of a Quran and burned them outside the Great Mosque of the Swedish capital. The man was arrested on charges of ethnic and racial hatred.

The desecration has set in motion a series of protests in several Muslim countries and has been condemned by the Swedish Council of Churches and also by Pope Francis.

On Sunday, 2 July, protestors gathered outside the press club in Karachi, the largest city in Pakistan, urging the Foreign Office to summon the Swedish ambassador to lodge a formal protest. – Vatican News

 

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