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Saturday, 10 March 2012

British Pakistani Christian Peace Rally

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The British Pakistani Christian Association were active in London today with a Protest outside the Pakistani High Commission, a Petition presented at 10 Downing Street, and a Peace Concert in Trafalgar Square.

I was in town for a meeting of the Faith Movement which finished mid afternoon. With a supply priest covering my evening Mass, I took the opportunity to visit the Peace Concert. I was delighted to meet the members of the band ooberfüse (right): the other day I mentioned their song His Blood Cries Out which is dedicated to Shabaz Bhatti, who died for the faith. (Unfortunately my camera battery died just has I had got someone to take a photo of me with the group.)

Here is one of the other singers at the event, entertaining some of the supporters as well as Joe Public:

Pakistani Christian 006

Other religious minorities are persecuted in Pakistan but the Christians seem to have borne the brunt of the violence. Today was one of those ecumenical events that I really enjoy, standing together with other Christians on an issue where there is real co-operation and unity of purpose. The lineup of speakers included  people of other faiths as well as Christians. John Pontifex of Aid to the Church in Need, and others from ACN were there. John read a message of support from Bishop Lang, Chairman of the Department of International Affairs for the Bishop's Conference and spoke himself of Shabaz Bhatti, mentioning Pope Benedict's tribute to him.

(Aid to the Church in Need is holding a Vigil on Thursday 17 May at Westminster Cathedral. Sung Mass at 5.30pm celebrated by Archbishop Coutts of Karachi, Pakistan; 6.30pm Rally in the Cathedral Piazza with Iraqi, Pakistani, Sudanese, and Egyptian groups in the UK; 7.30pm Cathedral Vigil in thanksgiving for the sacrifice of persecuted Christians today.)

I met the organiser Wilson Chowdhry, and he asked me if I would speak from the platform. I agreed, since there didn't seem to be any other Catholic clerics there, and it was an opportunity to show the support of the Church for this important cause. It was just a short ferverino encouraging people to use the religious freedom that we have on behalf of those who are denied the freedom to practise their faith. I finished by referring to the ongoing battle in which the Pakistani Government is seeking ways to ban the use of the words "Jesus Christ" in SMS text messages. I said that we should use the name of our Lord while we are free to do so and asked people to join in shouting out "Praised be Jesus Christ" three times.

The situation for Christians in Pakistan is very serious. On the website for the British Pakistani Christian Association, the "popular posts" widget on the sidebar has such entries as Murdered by Axe blows for failing to convert to Islam! Rashid Masih (RIP), and Karachi Trainee nurse raped and thrown out of window. Rape (often of schoolgirls), murder, kidnapping, and forced marriages are commonplace with a rate of at  least two such atrocities each day.

I found this video at the website for today's events. It is harrowing in parts but is a good introduction to the issue if you want to find out what is happening in Pakistan.



Two lessons I drew from today's event:
  • We must stand shoulder to shoulder with Pakistani Christians and others who are subject to persecution, and  use our freedom of expression to keep their plight in the public eye.
  • We must use the freedom that we still have, to stand up for our faith regardless of the relatively minor tribulations that may come our way for doing so.
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