Bangladeshi Christians demand repeal of Pakistan’s blasphemy law

Hundreds of Christians demonstrated in Bangladeshi capital Dhaka to demand an end to oppression of Christians and other minorities and the repeal of Pakistan’s controversial blasphemy law.

The protesters also handed over a memorandum to Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan copied to President Arif Alvi and Asad Qaiser, speaker of the national parliament, through the High Commission of Pakistan in Bangladesh.

The rally, organized by Bangladesh Christian Association (BCA), the largest interdenominational Christian forum, was held in the Gulshan diplomatic area of Dhaka on Sept. 23. It also drew leaders of other minority rights groups including Conscious Citizens’ Committee, Bangladesh Puja Celebration Council and Bangladesh Buddhist Federation.

“No religion endorses violence and killing in the name of religion. But in Pakistan, Christians and other minorities have been facing inhuman abuses and oppression in the guise of a draconian blasphemy law. We demand an end to oppression and safety of all minorities in Pakistan and immediate repeal of the blasphemy law,” BCA president Nirmol Rozario, a Catholic, told the rally.

Blasphemy has been a highly sensitive issue in conservative Pakistan for decades and the offense warrants a death sentence. This British colonial era law, amended during military rule, has become a favorite tool of Muslims who victimize minorities or to settle personal feuds.

Hundreds of Pakistani Christians and other minorities have fled the country to save themselves from fabricated charges of blasphemy. There have been a series of cases of extrajudicial killings and deadly mob violence over mere allegations of blasphemy in the country.

Rozario noted that minority Christians and other communities are aggrieved over the recent death sentence against Asif Pervaiz, a Pakistani Christian, imposed by a court in Lahore on Sept. 8 on false blasphemy charges filed by his Muslim supervisor back in 2013 and the arrest of David Masih, another Christian, in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province on allegations of tearing up the Quran on Aug. 30.

“We call upon the authorities in Pakistan to drop all fabricated blasphemy charges against Christians and members of minority communities and release them with dignity. We also urge clemency for those already sentenced to death for blasphemy,” stated the memorandum to Pakistan’s leaders.

Former diplomat and Hindu leader Nimchandra Bhowmick said Pakistan’s blasphemy law is unacceptable in a civilized world and must be repealed.

“The blasphemy law is a tool of oppression and abuses against minorities in Pakistan. It goes against human values and civility. It must be repealed in no time,” Bhowmick said.

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