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PAKISTAN / Bishop Anthony: Here, life for Christians is impossible

Monsignor Anthony, Bishop of Islamabad, describes the situation of Christians in Pakistan and talks of his friend Shahbaz Bhatti, the Minister for Religious Minorities killed on March 2

Minister Bhatti with some relatives of Asia Bibi Minister Bhatti with some relatives of Asia Bibi

"In Pakistan, the dialogue between Christians and Muslims is impossible, because they lack the minimum requirements: trust in each other and equality among religious faiths. But we Christians are not intimidated; we are part of this country, and even in this tragic moment, people are flocking to the churches much more than at `normal' times."

This is the testimony of Rufin Anthony , Bishop of Islamabad, the city where the Minister for Religious Minorities, Shahbaz Bhatti, was riddled with 30 bullets. Interviewed by Ilsussidiario.net, the Bishop reveals that he has known Bhatti since the minister was a child, and spoke with him frequently on the phone while continuing to meet with him even in recent weeks.

Monsignor Anthony, who was Shahbaz Bhatti really?

First, he was a young and courageous man, as well as a true Catholic. From an early age, he had been raised in Khushpur, a very Christian village, and had studied at a Catholic school. And he was just as good as a politician, because in his work in government he was moved by the same world view that he had learned from the Church.

Did the government he belonged to do everything possible to avoid his being killed?

Unfortunately, Shahbaz Bhatti took it lightly, to leave the house without an escort. But the authorities had provided sufficient guards for his defense. And if it were possible, the government would always protect churches and other Catholic buildings. But even the Muslim ministers are not safe from attacks, and are forced to go around with bodyguards.

What can be done in Pakistan to have a dialogue between Christians and Muslims?

The problem is that dialogue is impossible in Pakistan. Dialogue, in fact, presupposes that people, though different, are of equal value and are prepared to understand and respect each other. But here there is a different view: Muslims believe themselves in the right, and in anything related to religion, there cannot be a discussion. In Pakistan, we also cannot trust each other, and when that trust is missing, you cannot have a dialogue. The only dialogue possible is that of daily life: to get along, to greet each other when one meets. But now for Christians, the very fact of existence has become risky.

Is it possible to remove the law against blasphemy?

No, you know that this is impossible.