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LCC pastor addresses international panel on Christian persecution in Pakistan

June 8, 2017 No Comment
Rev. James Luke poses in front of a street car bearing a sign promoting the “Christians in Pakistan Under Threat” event.

Rev. James Luke poses in front of a street car bearing a sign promoting the “Christians in Pakistan Under Threat” event.

SWITZERLAND – On March 14, Lutheran Church–Canada (LCC) member Rev. James Luke was invited to present in Geneva at an event entitled “Christians in Pakistan Under Threat.” The event was organized on the sidelines of the 34th session of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Geneva, Switzerland. Rev. Luke is the LCC East District’s Intercultural Missionary at Large to the Greater Toronto Area and a retired Captain of the Pakistani Army.

Other members of the panel included Naveed Walter, the founder of Human Rights Focus Pakistan, and Javed Baksh, a retired Major of the Pakistani Army and a former Vice President of the Canadian Christian Association. Also speaking at the event was Przemyslaw Czarnecki, a member of the Polish Parliament and Vice Chairman of their Foreign Affairs Committee. The panel was moderated by Dr. Mario Silva, a former Canadian MP and current Executive Director for the International Forum for Rights and Security (IFFRAS).

News of persecution of Christians in Pakistan has been largely overshadowed by the deadly wars currently rocking the Muslim world—largely between the Sunni and Shia sects of Islam—which have resulted in the current refugee crisis. The focus of the panel presentation was to generate awareness to the plight of Pakistan’s Christian community which is being persecuted with impunity. Video of the conference is available here. An interview with Rev. Luke on the subject is available here.

Pakistan is one of only two countries established on the basis of religion, meaning a person’s legal rights are determined by their religion, Rev. Luke and his co-presenters noted. Christians in particular face trials because of Pakistan’s blasphemy law (Penal Code 295C) which mandates that any “blasphemies” of the Quran or Islam’s prophet are punishable, even up to a death penalty. This law effectively subdues all Christians into submission because a Muslim can accuse a Christian of blasphemy without needing to repeat the alleged blasphemies as evidence, because that would be blasphemy in itself.

“This sword hangs over the head of all Christians regardless of position, education, or social status,” Rev. Luke explains. “The law in most cases is implemented by a mob, incited by religious clerics, who execute street justice by lynching, burning, killing the victim of such accusations.”

This sword hangs over the head of all Christians regardless of position, education, or social status.

He notes that churches and other Christian institutions are victims of arson at an alarmingly high rate. Similarly disturbing is the number of abducted Christian women, forced conversions, and mob justice—all with no end in sight. Added to this is mounting concern because of “the wave of Islamic fundamentalism within the state and government structures” growing in Pakistan, with serious repercussions for religious minorities.

The presentation also focused on what can be done to better safeguard the rights of Christians in Pakistan. Due to intolerance, charged religious emotions, uncompromising attitudes, conspiracy theories, and a largely illiterate population, any steps going forward to reverse the genocide should move simultaneously on two parallel axes, Rev. Luke and his co-presenters noted: Government to Government and People to People.

Western nations must show moral courage in acknowledging Christian persecution in the Islamic World. Without political moral courage, attempts to safeguard persecuted Christians fails right at the starting line. “Whether for National strategic interests, internal political considerations, or just ignorance of jihadist intents, Western Christian majority nations are reluctant or, dare I say, afraid to speak on Christian persecution,” Rev. Luke suggests. He urged Western nations generally and the Canadian government in specific to speak out publicly on the persecution of Christian minorities in the Muslim World, especially in Pakistan.

Westerners should also seek partnership with progressive, moderate Pakistanis who seek peace and justice, he urged. “A non-Muslim attempting to speak on Islam is a non-starter” in Pakistan, he noted. “It’s best to seek out, work with, and strengthen moderate Muslim organizations working on human rights, womens rights, equal rights, religious rights, regional peace, and the rule of law. Together with these progressive Muslims, Christians stand a chance to be heard in the halls of power in Pakistan.”

Rev. Luke further urges Western governments to take seriously the traditional “carrot and stick principle of give and take.” He suggests that Western nations insist that for every dollar given to Pakistan for any project, a portion be earmarked for support of the persecuted Christian community. A clear signal should also be given by the United Nations in officially declaring Pakistani Christians a persecuted minority, which would help Pakistani Christians to be accepted as refugees.

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