Archbishop of Karachi Joseph Coutts, has warned about the deteriorating condition of religious freedom in Pakistan. Archbishop Coutts who has also Cardinal-designate was attending an event titled “Defending International Religious Freedom: Partnership and Action,” where the attendees highlighted dilemma of different communities that suffer from religion based violence. This event was held on June 25, in Rome.
Archbishop Coutts said that currently, the caretaker government has not been able to curb the vigilantism displayed by religious extremists. He said that the situation of religious freedom has undergone gradual erosion. He mentioned the widely misused blasphemy law saying that the very law meant to prevent blasphemy is “being very easily misused.”
“It’s causing a lot of problems right now. People are being killed … just because of an accusation,” he said. “Our government is not strong enough to control the kind of extremism that has developed in the country,” he said adding, “It is enough to accuse someone of blasphemy … and you’re finished.”
Archbishop Coutts said that not only Pakistani Christians who are facing the brunt of misuse of blasphemy law, but also the Shia Muslims. “We are suffering as Christians, but our Muslim brethren are also suffering,” he said.
This event was co-hosted by U.S. embassy to the Holy See, Aid to the Church in Need, and the Sant’Egidio Community. The U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See, Callista Gingrich, while opening the event mentioned several incidents of religiously motivated persecution of Christians from across the globe explaining that it is “a dangerous time to be a person of faith.”
“All of us gathered here today understand that religious liberty and tolerance are bulwarks against the forces of extremism. History has shown that governments and societies that champion religious liberty are safer, more prosperous, and secure,” Gingrich said.
Vatican’s Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, closed the event, as he urged governments of countries across the globe not to overlook persecution of religious minorities. He summarized seven elements, he called “essential” to safeguarding the religious minorities.
These points include, “positive collaboration” between religious communities and governments, the “great duty to condemn abuse of religious belief and sentiment to justify terrorism” and educational efforts “to prevent radicalization that leads to extremism.”