Pakistan Church defends and gives witness under fireWednesday, April 18th, 2012
The Catholic Church in Pakistan is setting up community protection groups in Karachi.
Minorities (such as Catholics) in the metropolis need protection as political violence has claimed more than 100 lives in the last a few weeks. Training is already underway for the groups at the Franciscan friary in Karachi. The Justice and Peace Commission Major Superiors Leadership Conference of Pakistan (MSLCP), is organising the program, and explained that the first (ecumenical) group in the southern archdiocese consists of lawyers and other professionals.
“We shall record human rights violations and provide legal aid to victims especially workers and women,” said Rasheed Gill, the regional MSLCP animator. He explained that the worsening security situation in Pakistan’s most populous city has prompted the need to support and protect marginalised minorities. There are at least 10 similar groups elsewhere in the country.
Persecution of Christians and Catholics continues in Pakistan. The latest development is in the case of Amariah Masih (see ciNews Saturday, March 17, 2012), a Catholic 18-year-old woman raped and killed in November 2011 by Muslim Arif Gujjar, who wanted to marry and convert her.
During an official meeting held in recent days in his village in the province of Punjab, Mansha Masih, the father of the woman, who has been called the, " Pakistani Maria Goretti" said he has forgiven the killer.
About 75 Muslims and 35 Christians came together; the Muslim community offered a formal apology to Mansha Masih, expressing regret for the incident. Amariah's Catholic family responded with forgiveness. The local authorities had acquitted and released the accused and the case was due to be taken to a different court.
A local priest, told Fides, “Mansa Masih's Christian family had no other choice, being one of the few Christian families in a Muslim village. Forgiveness is desirable; it comes from God and is always a witness of love to the enemy. But too often, Christians in Pakistan are denied justice and crimes against Christians remain unpunished."
Meanwhile Mgr Rufin Anthony (pictured), Bishop of Islamabad-Rawalpindi, described the reality in the Catholic Church of Pakistan, as being immersed in a social fabric that is largely Muslim.
"It is the moment of the laity in the Church in Pakistan. We can count on the deep faith and strong commitment of the laity, who are the future of the Church and must be part of the leadership of the country, “he said.
For the pastoral care of 180,000 people who live in his diocese, in the northern province of Punjab, there are 34 priests who encourage movements and lay associations. The Focolare Movement, Charismatic Renewal, the Neocatechumenals, the Community of St. Egidio, and others have been active in recent years in the diocese.
"We want to give, through these movements, the centrality of the Word of God in the lives of families: this is the alphabet of our faith," explained the Bishop.
The relationship between Muslims and Christian families is good and, “this is the basis for a peaceful coexistence in society. Despite the formation and different faith, there is a common point of view in being all part of the human family and in respect for human dignity," he said.
by Ann Marie Foley