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World News

Priest’s urgent plea for justice for Christians persecuted in Pakistan

by Heather Preston

A priest in Pakistan is calling on Western governments to intervene as Christians experience the country's worst ever incident of persecution.

Father Abid Tanveer, the vicar general of the Diocese of Faisalabad, has called for international pressure to ensure justice for the victims of the Jaranwala attack in Punjab Province.

On 16th August 2023, a 7,000 strong mob attacked Jaranwala, targeting 26 churches and chapels. Hundreds of Christians were forced to flee their homes. Pakistan's bishops described the violence as the “worst incident against Christians” in the country's history.

Speaking to Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), Father Tanveer recounted the "anger and hatred" he encountered from the mob and underscored that without justice the victims of Jaranwala would not find closure or feel safe.

He urged Western powers to step in and call on the Pakistani government to address the persecution of Christians there.

“Governments in the West should call for justice. The Government in Pakistan will listen to the West because they need them in terms of aid and trade.

“The West should write to our government and ask why Christians in our country are being persecuted and what are they doing about it.”

Within 24 hours of the attack, 180 arrests were made and over 6,000 police and paramilitary forces were deployed to the region.

However, Father Tanveer has expressed concerns about alleged corruption within Pakistan's legal system, stating that there was only a "50/50 chance" that justice would be served for the victims.

“There remains an underlying fear that many people have. They are always wondering where and when the next attack will come,” he added.

The violence was triggered by accusations of blasphemy against two Christian men. In response to fears of further accusations, 50 students from Jaranwala left for hostels in nearby Gojra and Yohannabad in Lahore, according to Father Tanveer.

The priest has commended Muslim leaders, known as maulanas, for denouncing the attacks and emphasized the importance of their followers embracing messages of peace and respect for religious diversity.

ACN has provided £130,000 in emergency aid - including clothing, kitchen appliances, bedding, and school supplies - to Jaranwala Christians affected by the violence.

Father Tanveer said: “For many years, Aid to the Church in Need has been a great help to our diocese and especially so after this incident in Jaranwala.

“From the bottom of our hearts we want to pay tribute to the staff and benefactors of ACN. Please be assured of our grateful prayers.”   


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