Christians in Pakistan ask for international protection

Paul Bhatti, brother of Pakistan’s Minority Affairs Minister Shahbaz Bhatti who was assassinated a year ago, has called on the international community to help Christians and other groups in Pakistan, saying minorities there “need the protection of the international community.”

Dr. Paul Bhatti , Pakistan’s Minister-in-charge for National Harmony, recommended more dialogue between European governments and institutions on the one side and private, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in Pakistan on the other side.

Christian delegation in BelgiumHe said that in their negotiations and meetings, the EU and individual states should not limit themselves to contacts with the government in Islamabad.

In a meeting with international Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), he backed up his recommendation by pointing to the skills and the greater freedom of private organizations.

He also clearly affirmed this recommendation during his last visit to Brussels in meetings with the Commission and members of the European Parliament.

The private NGOs know how to provide very concrete aid on the ground, he pointed out.

He also noted that aid is particularly necessary in the field of education,  explaining, “Illiteracy and intolerance are the principal causes of the deterioration in social relations and the tensions between the individual ethnic and religious groups among the population.”

Dr. Bhatti is a Catholic like his murdered brother, whose Ministry for Minority Affairs was renamed after the assassination.

The Prime Minister himself asked the murdered minister’s brother to leave his physician’s practice in Italy and work for national harmony in Pakistan as advisor to the Premier with ministerial rank.

On the invitation of ACN, together with the Archbishop of Karachi Joseph Coutts, he met with high-ranking politicians in Brussels, among them the President of the European Union, Hermann van Rompuy.

Bhatti said that his brother had “fought a good fight against every form of discrimination” and “always based himself on the teachings of the New Testament.”
Some 2.2 million Christians live in Pakistan, including 1.2 million Catholicism, making Christians about two percent of the population.

In recent years, blasphemy laws have led to an increase in arbitrary actions against Christians and Hindus, and also against Muslims.

Legal insecurity in the country has also grown alongside intolerance and fanaticism, leaving many Christians in Pakistan dependent on external aid.

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