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PAKISTAN/ Minister Bhatti: I want to organize a global conference on the persecution of Christians

Member of the Pakistani government PAUL BHATTI comments on the situation of Christians in Pakistan using case studies, and on his proposal for a global conference on religious freedom.

Pakistan  (Infophoto) Pakistan (Infophoto)

Paul Bhatti, the Pakistani Minister for National Harmony and the brother of Shahbaz, who was killed a year and a half ago by a group of terrorists, spoke at the UN and is speaking in Italy about the situation of Christians in his country.  He previews his talk to Ilsussidiario.net, saying that it “will be the occasion to propose a great world conference on the topic of religious freedom, which I would like to organize in Italy with all the heads of state and political and religious leaders of the five continents”.

Minister Bhatti, we received the news of some Pakistani Muslims accused of blasphemy for destroying a Hindu temple this week. What do you think about this?

The blasphemy law punishes offenses against any religion and its prophets. Unfortunately, in Pakistan has been applied mainly against Christians, but some Muslims have also been prosecuted on this charge. The attack on the Hindu temple falls within the cases provided by the law on blasphemy. In the case of Rimsha Masih, it would seem that a Muslim placed the pages of the Koran inside a bag that contained ash, with the aim of incriminating the girl. This gesture is itself a form of blasphemy, and so now the religious man will have to answer to the same charge.

Do you think it is a good thing that the blasphemy law has been applied against the religious intolerance of Muslims in this case?

From a certain point of view it is positive. The most important thing, however, is that the blasphemy law is not used for personal vendettas. The problem with Pakistan is that there is a group of individuals with an extremist mentality, who are basically terrorists and who use any excuse to create chaos.

What is happening now in the case of Rimsha Masih?

The downside is that the solution to the case is taking longer than expected. The moment that the trial was about to be concluded, the Court of First Instance faced protests by lawyers who accused Rimsha. A large group of people appeared in court with six lawyers, and they did not allow the judge to speak, while they clamored for Rimsha to be punished. They insulted the judge and the police, saying that they would do justice with their own hands. Faced with an aggressive mentality, there is little to be done. They asked that Rimsha Masih come to court, and we opposed this because, at that point, the safety of the little girl would have been jeopardized. Under pressure, however, the court decided that the child would have to be present at the next hearing.

What did you do then?