Brussels, September 6, 2023: A delegation representing the Christian community visited the European Parliament in Brussels to appeal for immediate attention to the religious persecution faced by Christians in Pakistan. The delegation, consisting of Joseph Jansen, Shagufta Kausar, and Asif Mall, urged European Parliament members to initiate a debate and propose a resolution addressing the alarming rise of religious persecution against Christians in Pakistan.
Prominent Members of the European Parliament, including Charlie Weimers, David Lega, Bert-Jan Ruissen, and Anja Haga, joined the meeting and expressed their commitment to taking substantial actions within the European Parliament to combat religion-based violence in Pakistan.
Joseph Jansen, an advocacy officer at Jubilee Campaign, provided a comprehensive overview of the deteriorating religious freedom situation in Pakistan, particularly in light of the recent events in Jaranwala. He emphasized the misuse of blasphemy laws, leading to the targeting of innocent Christians who were falsely accused of desecrating the Holy Quran. This false accusation triggered mob violence, resulting in the destruction of 26 churches and over 80 Christian homes in the town, all facilitated by the religio-political party Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP). Jansen expressed concerns over the investigations, citing a lack of police attention to the mob attack against Christians. He called for a judicial inquiry into the Jaranwala attack, as well as the safety of Christians accused of blasphemy in Jaranwala and Sargodha. Additionally, he emphasized the need for a fair and transparent investigation and trial to prosecute and punish those responsible for inciting and participating in mob violence.
Asif Mall highlighted the precarious situation faced by Christians residing in Christian settlements across Pakistan since the Jaranwala violence and subsequent blasphemy accusations in Sargodha. He reported incidents where individuals associated with religio-political parties defaced the outer walls of churches with derogatory messages about the Prophet Muhammad. Notably, Mall mentioned the recent shooting of a pastor in Faisalabad who had attempted to remove graffiti from a church wall with the assistance of the police and refused to convert to Islam. He disclosed that while police have arrested culprits, including representatives of Tehreek-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) involved in violence against Christians in Jaranwala, Christians are facing pressure to withdraw cases against TLP representatives. They are being threatened with dire consequences if they do not comply with these demands.
European Parliamentarians acknowledged the gravity of the situation and pledged to hold a debate on the destructive impact of blasphemy allegations on Christians in Pakistan. They also committed to initiating a resolution urging Pakistan to amend its blasphemy laws, which are vague and discriminatory and infringe upon freedom of religion and freedom of expression.
Charlie Weimers emphasized that the consequences of reactions to blasphemy affect citizens worldwide and must be addressed in line with international human rights standards. The European Parliament and European External Action Service should not only raise their voices against religious persecution but also take meaningful actions with a tangible impact.
Anja Haga decried the dismal state of religious freedom in Pakistan and reaffirmed the commitment of parliamentarians to advocate for positive reforms that would put an end to the devastating consequences of baseless blasphemy accusations.