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Pakistan Bishop slams Taliban threats to Christians


Lahore : Bishop of Lahore Alexander John Malik, who is also moderator of the Church of Pakistan, has condemned letters by a Taliban faction threatening Christians in the North West Frontier Province (NWFP).

Christians living in Charsadda and Mardan have been asked to convert to Islam or they would be expelled from the cities.

The bishop said that Christians had the prerogative to practice their religion freely and no one could force them otherwise. He said he had written a letter to the NWFP chief minister to provide security to Christians in the province, Daily Times said Saturday.

The National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP) has also asked the government to take notice of the threatening letters being delivered to Christians of the two cities.

A joint statement issued by the NCJP chairperson, Archbishop Lawrence John Saldanha, and executive secretary Peter Jacob strongly condemned the act of intimidation of the small Christian community of these cities.

The statement said: "The constitution of Pakistan guarantees protection of religious minorities and safeguards religious freedom." Therefore, the government is bound to ensure that the minorities rights are safeguarded.

It said such acts were spoiling the country's image in the comity of nations. The statement stressed that the government should make policies that ensure long-lasting peace among people of various religions.

It added that the people responsible for the threats should be exposed and brought to justice. The NCJP office bearers also demanded that steps be taken to inculcate social harmony and interfaith respect in the country.

An estimated 1.5 percent of Pakistan's 145 million Muslim majority population practice Christianity. They have been subjected to socio-economic discrimination and as per reports, are targeted under blasphemy law that prescribes severe punishment to anyone found insulting Islam or its symbols.