Source: Il Sussidiario
August 31, 2014
“The root of the attacks against Christians in Iraq, Pakistan, Syria and Nigeria is the same, and what they have in common is the ideological matrix that is using religion to impose its own view on everyone. These persecutions are stronger where there is political instability.” Paul Jacob Bhatti, president of the Shahbaz Memorial trust, a foundation in honor of his brother killed in Pakistan by Islamic fundamentalists on March 2, 2011, highlighted this in a talk he gave at the Meeting di Rimini called “Witness to Freedom”. The following is from questions that followed the talk.
Q: What is the state of religious freedom in today’s unstable political situation in Pakistan?
B: In Pakistan there is a deep instability that is seen not only in the political sphere, but also in the economic and religious situations, if we take note of the wide-ranging divisions between Christians and Muslims. The situation of the Christians, who belong to the weakest class, is directly proportional to the general situation in Pakistan. The more unstable the government, the more violence increases against Christians and the more the number increases of those who want to impose a radical philosophy on everyone. Besides Christians there are other victims as well, namely those Muslim sects that are in a less strong position than others.
Q: On what does the improvement of life for Christians in Pakistan depend?
B: Improvement with respect to religious freedom will be impossible as long as there is this instability in the country. The result is that reforms are impossible to carry out, that there is no follow-through in making decisions that will stand, and that even the application of the existing laws is not possible. There are many people of good faith who would like to live together in peaceful co-existence in Pakistan, but their voices cannot be heard in an ambience that does not permit them to express their opinions.
Q: What is your evaluation of what is happening in Iraq?
B: The basis of the Islamic state is a terrorist ideology and has roots in the entire world. In the name of religion they strike at those in a weak minority position like Christians. What is happening in Iraq is reason for a great sense of concern for all of us who understand Christians in the world as one family, each the daughter of the same mother, namely the Church. In Pakistan as in Iraq, in Nigeria and in Syria we see that the suffering of Christians has the same cause, in so far as people who are in a weak minority position and who are innocent are killed by Muslims because of their faith.
Q: Does the persecution of Christians in Pakistan and in Iraq have a common root?
B: Yes. Because the ideology is the same. And these movements support each whether they exist in Pakistan or in Syria or Iraq. This concerns us, because there is also at this moment a great political instability such that the actual borders between one country and the next are not at all clear.
Q: What can Christians in the Middle East do in this situation?
B: The Christians of the Middle East find themselves in a minority position on two counts: first because they are a minority numerically, second because they have little power as a weak minority. Therefore they need international support to assist them in getting out of this state of crisis.
Q: In what way can the West help the persecuted Christians?
B: The West can do more, and its first task is to make itself aware of the gravity of the problem and the situation, which should be resolved at the international level. The West is known for its respect for human rights, and when these rights are violated in this way, its presence can help not only in protecting those in a fragile position but also in identifying the underlying causes of the situation and in finding the means to overcome the crisis.
[Translated by Fr. Richard G. Cipolla]