The senior church leadership has reiterated its demand for the formation of a judicial commission to investigate the attacks on multiple churches and homes of Christians in Jaranwala and to hold the negligent officials accountable in order to prevent such incidents from taking place in the future.
The demand was put forth in a resolution unanimously agreed after the two-day meeting of the 17th Triennial Diocesan Council of the Diocese of Raiwind, Church of Pakistan, on Saturday. The meeting was chaired by The Most Reverend Dr Azad Marshall, Moderator/President Bishop of the Synod Church of Pakistan and Bishop of Raiwind.
“In light of the tragic incident in Jaranwala, we, the members of the 17th Diocesan Council, have identified four areas that have been consistently targeted against Christians in previous episodes of similar nature: The Holy Bible, The Christian Family, The Cross of Jesus as a symbol of our faith, and the Church (the Bride of Christ as well as those places where believers gather to fellowship, worship and grow in Christian Witness, hope, faith and love). We believe that these attacks are born of the very powers and principalities that seek to weaken and undermine the witness of the Church (us) and our presence,” the resolution stated.
The resolution urged the state authorities to rectify the root causes fostering religiously-motivated aggression instead of resorting to short-term strategies, suppressing the victims’ voices, and overlooking the accountability of the culprits behind such acts.
The council members also acknowledged the legal and advocacy efforts led by Bishop Marshall for curbing the misuse of the blasphemy laws; protecting underage Christian girls from forced conversions and forced marriages; uniting the community for a self-enumeration campaign to ascertain the accurate number of Christians in Pakistan, protecting minorities’ places of worship, ensuring equitable representation in institutions, and updating the curriculum to promote interfaith harmony, pluralism and inclusivity in Pakistani society.
The joint resolution called for introducing a strong deterrent against false accusations of blasphemy and setting a uniform age of marriage for both boys and girls at 18 years to curb forced conversions of underage Christian girls. It also demanded a unified law against the desecration of all holy scriptures, along with consistent application of the laws regardless of faith affiliation to promote equality and fairness within the legal system.
The council members also offered special prayers for peace, interfaith harmony and political stability in Pakistan. They also lauded the efforts and sacrifices of Pakistan’s armed forces in the war against terrorism and expressed the church’s complete support to the civil and military leaderships in this regard.
The diocesan council expressed concern over the escalating tensions in Middle East in wake of fresh fighting between Israeli forces and Palestinian militants.
“Our grief and shock grow greater as more devastating news and images emerge from the violence-stricken region but we hope that innocent civilians on either side are not made to pay the price of evil committed by certain groups or individuals,” the resolution stated.__The Nation