Posts Tagged ‘Pakistan’

Mr Shahbaz Bhatti visits the UK

Pakistani Federal Minister for Minorities visits UK

Written by Wilson Chowdhry
In Alex’s absence, I attended the Christian Muslim Forum conference held at St George the Martyr Church , Bermondsey London yesterday afternoon.  The event was well organised and had a small but important audience including members of Christian Solidarity Worldwide, the Bishop of Southwark, Romail Gulzar and Pukaar News, John Bosco, Reverend Rana Youab Khan and many esteemed others, including senior figures from the UK Muslim community.
The meeting was a chance for those concerned about the persecution of minority faiths and the effects of the recent inundation – to get some feedback from the Federal Minister Shahbaz Bhatti and to pose questions to him.
Shahbaz Bhatti talked much about the introduction of a people engagement scheme that involves frequent meetings with leaders and lay people from all faiths in Pakistan.  He described how he believed that this would herald a new age of dialogue and cultural transformation in Pakistan – if given time to take effect.
He also talked of amendments to be made to the Blasphemy Law of Pakistan that will eventually see the introduction of penalties to those who are found abusing the act for personal benefit.  This would involve penalties to groups or agencies that stirred up hatred against communities – such as rogue or fanatical religious leaders and their establishments.

Mr Shahbaz Bhatti alongside Bishop Dr Richard Cheetham and other Pakistani Christian Brethren
Many questioned the veracity of the worth of such schemes as many had heard the same previously.  Moreover, I specifically asked the Federal Minister, to explain how he would ensure that the authorities involved in the process of evaluating and investigating any blasphemy allegations would be free from corruption.  I suggested that the police and other agencies are prone to corruption due to low levels of pay
incommensurate with better pay levels for Taliban insurgents!  Moreover, if better pay levels were to be administered the government of Pakistan would have to introduce a fairer tax system and ensure that monies due were collected.

Mr Wilson Chowdhry with Mr Julian Bond (Director of The Christian Muslim Forum)

I also queried the need for a Blasphemy Law considering that a lead Muslim had stated that the law itself is un-islamic (it seemed a ubiquitous theme that all faiths attending the meeting were pro-abrogation of the Blasphemy Law), however, if the government was reticent to remove the Law should it not provide universal protection to all faiths and prophets.  In such format with the threat of counter-litigation, we should surely see a sharp reduction in the propensity for abuse.

Finally, I asked why it was necessary to highlight an individual’s faith on their passports and identity documents.  This act alone highlights the extent of prejudice in Pakistan and would be an easy matter to resolve without any significant cost or difficulty.  People would simply have the choice to purchase new passports without the discriminatory text – if holding an old standard type.

Condemning Attacks on Places of Worship

Religious Tensions in Pakistan

We recently reported on threats against a Shi’a Muslim leader in Pakistan Dialogue – Waging Peace in Difficult Times and the Anti-Terrorism Fatwa. We take this opportunity to share these press releases.
28 May 2010, MINAB Condemns Attacks on Places of Worship

Reports from Pakistan claim that two centres of worship belonging to the Ahmadi/Qadiani sect in Lahore have been attacked. Even though this sect is not regarded as belonging to the fold of Islam by the majority of Muslims in the world, it is the belief of MINAB that all places of worship should be safe from any such attack, no matter to which faith or group they belong.

The Chair of MINAB, Maulana Shahid Raza, OBE, has condemned the attacks. “It is a human right to be able to worship in peace and security, so any attack on a place of worship is abhorrent,” he said. “It is hoped that such sectarianism does not raise its head in Britain.”
The message from MINAB is that Britain’s mosques should be places of safety for all who attend them, and Muslims must respect all other places where people gather for religious purposes.

The Christian Muslim Forum echoes this message that Christians and Muslims, and their places of worship, should be safe from each other and that people of other religions and those of no faith should all be respected and valued as God’s creations.

The Mosques and Imams National Advisory Board (MINAB) is the representative body of all UK Muslim denominations set up to promote good governance in Mosques and Imam Training Institutions through a process of self regulation. It has over six hundred mosques and training institutions as its members. It is a community led independent body, non sectarian in its outlook, representing the diversity of Islam with no role in matters of theology and is broad based with an accountable system of representation.
Press Release from Allama Inayat Ali Shakir, Chairman Tehrik-e-Akhuwat-e-Islami Pakistan and Interfaith Dialogue Committee
Islamabad: Chairman Tehrik-e-Akhuwat-e-Islami Pakistan and Interfaith Dialogue Committee and prominent Shia scholar Allama Inayat Ali Shakir has strongly condemned the terrorist attacks on the worship places of Ahmadiyyas in Lahore in which hundreds of Ahmadiyyas were killed and several injured and termed it an attempt to destabilize the country and worsen the law and order situation.
He was talking to a delegation of Ulemas of different faiths, who called on him in the central secretariat of Tehrik-e-Akhuwat-e-Islami (T.A.I) Islamabad. Allama Shakir said that Islam is a universal religion and guaranteed the protection of rights of all minorities, therefore the minorities in Pakistan have been given complete rights according to law. “Any religion of the world does not permit to assassinate the innocent people and attacks of worship places of other faiths”, he added and said that terrorists have no religion and enemies of entire humanity.
He said that incidents of terrorism on one hand are an attempt to defame the image of the country, while on other hand its object is to sabotage the efforts made for the promotion of interfaith harmony. Allama Shakir said that it is not only the responsibility of government to curb terrorism and extremism but the Ulemas and religious scholars should also play their active role for the elimination of this menace along with government functionaries.
He maintained that it is the dire need of hour to promote interfaith harmony, peace and religious tolerance in the country. “Government should initiate high-level inquiry to probe into the matter of Lahore blasts and unveil this conspiracy and brought the culprits to book and give them exemplary punishment, who are allegedly involve in this heinous crime” he demanded. Allama Shakir expressed sympathy and solidarity with the bereaved families and prayed for the early recovery of injured.

Dialogue – Waging Peace in Difficult Times

In Support of a Friend

Inayat Ali Shakir, Chairman of Tehrik Akhuwat Islami Pakistan (TAI or ‘Interfaith Dialogue Committee’), is a friend of the Christian Muslim Forum since our early days. I have on my desk a copy of our first progress report which he translated into Urdu and circulated in Pakistan.

His personal commitment to inter faith initiatives and improving Christian-Muslim relations has been acknowledged by Rt Revd Alexander Malik, Bishop of Lahore, ‘TAI under the dynamic leadership of Allama Inayat Ali Shakir is playing an important part in promoting inter-religious dialogue and building bridges of understanding, trust and faith among people of different faiths. I, as Bishop of Lahore and Moderator/Primate of the Church of Pakistan whole-heartedly support and commend Allama’s efforts in this regard.’

He has recently received death threats for his interfaith work, see press cutting below:

Press Release from Gojra, August 2009

‘A delegation of leaders and intellectuals of different faiths led by Chairman Tehrik Akhuwat-e-Islami (TAI), Allama Inayat Ali Shakir visited Gojra on August 10, 2009 to express solidarity with the victim families. It was comprised on Maulana Ahmed Saeed Qureshi, Sahibzada Nisar-ul-Mustafa, Mufti Abdul Qavi (Multan), Father John William and others. The delegation visited central church (Samundri road), met with the victim families at Korian and inquired about the health of injured persons in Civil Hospital. Members of the visiting delegation also met with Bishop Joseph of Gojra Church who briefed about the incident in length. Later, Chairman TAI addressing a news conference at Administration Office said that involvement banned organizations could not be ignored in this incident. He said Islam is the religion of peace, which never allows suicide attacks and torching houses of someone. He said Muslim Christian unity has foiled the nefarious design of the miscreants. He termed it a move to defame Pakistan at international level. He said those involved in this incident has no connection with religion, adding no one has the right to take the law in his hands and torch houses of the people. He lauded the measures taken by the federal and provincial governments soon after this mayhem. He stressed the need to promote interfaith harmony to curb such kind of incidents. Chairman TAI asked the government to immediate arrest the accused involved in the incident and should award exemplary punishments.’

A Call to Prayer

Please pray for courageous and committed Muslims and Christians, of all traditions, who work for inter faith peace, harmony and reconciliation in the face of hatred, prejudice and ignorance. Also pray for those Christians and Muslims who suffer mistreatment, injury and death at each other’s hands. Please also support inter faith reconciliation initiatives in as many ways as possible.

A Range of Christian-Muslim Peace Initiatives

Nigeria: The Imam and the Pastor

Nottingham: Good Friday


Attacks on Christians in Pakistan

Statements: Religious Festivals and Celebrations, A Shared Commitment to God and Each Other, Ethical Witness Guidelines

Julian Bond

Attacks on Christians in Pakistan

The inhumane attacks on the homes of Pakistani Christians which resulted in the deaths of eight people is a major crime. Senior Muslim scholars from Pakistan personally known to me, have unambiguously condemned this as a serious crime, and a sin. They have shown their solidarity and extended hands of friendship to the bereaved Christian families. Amongst these scholars are the following: Pir Ameen al Hassanat, spiritual leader of the Chishtia order; Allama Syed Riaz Hussain Shah, President of Jammat ahl Sunna and Haji Fazal Karim. Our British charity Muslim Hands  has already visited the affected Christians to provide support to the victims and will continue to do so.

I would like the Pakistani High Commissioner in London to do two things to stop this kind of violence against minorities ever happening again:

1. Ensure that the police take seriously the issues of minorities and their treatment. This tragic incident could have been averted if the Pakistani police had taken notice of the Muslim-Christian tensions in the area.

2. Amend the blasphemy law so that it cannot be abused, or exploited, by extremists and others.

On behalf of British Muslims I urge the Pakistani government to take special measures to give respect and full rights, as well as protection, to our Christians neighbours.

I would also like to appeal to the British government to take positive action in promoting trust building and peace and reconciliation amongst Christians and Muslims in Pakistan.
Musharraf Hussain OBE, DL
Chair, Christian Muslim Forum

Archbishop of Canterbury’s statement, also Archbishop’s statement on recent violence against Christians in Nigeria

Islamic Society of North America’s statement

Make a donation to our ongoing bridge-building work, or to Muslim Hands or Christian Aid

Ramadan Mubarak 2009

The Muslim holy month of fasting – Ramadan – began on 22 August. The Christian Muslim Forum joins with many other Muslim, Christian and inter faith organisations in wishing our Muslim sisters and brothers a blessed Ramadan – Ramadan Mubarak – and God’s peace.

During Ramadan Muslims set aside time for increased devotion and drawing near to God as well as strengthening relationships with their neighbours. So for Christians Ramadan can be an opportunity to visit a mosque, spend more time with Muslim friends and colleagues and attend iftars (daily breaking of the fast). This kind of sharing creates opportunities later to invite Muslims to learn more about Christian devotions at key times of the year. Sharing and meeting together during Ramadan may also be a good start for thinking about what we may be able to do together during Inter Faith Week

Blasphemy law in Pakistan: open petition

Christians and Muslims around the world, as well as people of other faiths and those who do not adhere to any religion, will have been hearing with real concern, the news of the attacks on the Christian villages of Gojra and Qorian in Pakistan resulting in the deaths of at least seven innocent men, women and children. This was the latest in such attacks over many years and has attracted international condemnation from religious and political leadership in Pakistan and internationally.

One of the causes of such attacks is the ability of extremists and others with private motivations, to incite attacks on Christians and on occasion also on Muslims; and the inability of the police and local judiciary to protect innocent people. The blasphemy laws currently in force in Pakistan provide such people with the means to incite violence and seem to have played a part in the recent incidents which led to the death of a number of Christians.

Following widespread discussions with Christian partners and correspondents in Pakistan, Christian and Muslim organisations in the United Kingdom and with the Pakistan authorities, there is a desire amongst many people to express their concerns to the Government of Pakistan and to press for change in the blasphemy legislation and for the protection of Christians and others who are suffering from its abuse. To this end a petition is now available to be signed electronically and can be reached by clicking here and following the instructions.

The petition is signed by the Rt Revd Michael Jackson, who chairs the Anglican Communion Network for Inter Faith Concerns and by Dr Musharraf Hussain the Chair of the Christian Muslim Forum. This follows Dr Musharraf’s initial and those made by others. The Rt Revd David James, Bishop of Bradford, is the first petition signatory, it has also been signed by Rt Revd Dr Richard Cheetham, Vice-Chair of the Christian Muslim Forum.

The petition will be delivered to the Pakistan Government and is intended to assist in their efforts to prevent further attacks. The more people who sign, the more effective the petition will be.

It is by actions such as these that people of faith and of goodwill can show their active concern for the good of the world and in this case their support of the Christian community of Pakistan and of Muslims who are concerned to take action and are supporting their Christian neighbours

Julian Bond

Christian Muslim Forum