Profile of Mr. Joseph Francis MBE & Creation of CLAAS in 1992

Biography of Mr. Francis:

Born in a Roman Catholic family in 1945 Mr. Francis was raised with religious traditions and culture. Attending Sunday school laid the foundation of strong Christian faith in him which led to his unconditional love for Humanity. He got his high school education from Rang Mahal Mission High school in Lahore. He was very active in political activities and community work. His struggle for persecuted Christians began in 1965 war between India and Pakistan. During this war many Christians were arrested and detained in unknown places accusing them of being Indian spy. Mr. Francis used to visit jails and prisons finding whereabouts of these people and then taking their families to visit them in jails. It was then that he realized that Christians are not considered equal citizens in Pakistan.

There was no Christian political party in mainstream politics. Leading Muslim political parties were not giving equal membership to non-Muslims. To participate in mainstream politics Mr. Francis laid the foundation of Pakistan Christian National Party (PCNP) and join hands with leading progressive party “Pakistan people Party” .Using his political connections he started pursing cases of Christians detained in prisons and involved in blasphemy cases. On 19th December 1990 he took the first blasphemy case of Tahir Iqbal, a Muslim by birth who converted to Christianity. Because of his conversion his Muslim rivals fabricated blasphemy charges against him. He was charged and sent to Kot Lakhpat jail, Lahore. Mr. Francis accompanied him to his trial in additional and Session court in Lahore. Tahir Iqbal was later poisoned and was found dead in his prison cell.

In early days of his struggle Mr. Francis used to hire Muslim lawyers paying them from his own pocket to fight the cases of Christians in court. He knew that he cannot rely on the services of Muslims lawyers for these sensitive cases. He had a vision to provide a platform to his Christian community where they could come without any fear for help. In 1992 his prayers were answered and with the help of a dear friend Dr. Charles Amjad Ali, who donated ten thousand Pakistani rupees to Mr. Francis to rent a place for office. As a result of this CLAAS came into existence. Today CLAAS is recognized for its incredible work in the field of human rights has become a beacon of hope and safe refuge for persecuted in Pakistan.

He is known all over the world for his fearless leadership and matchless services for the Christians in Pakistan. After 54 years of non-stop service to his community; he lives a very humble life in one bedroom. He owns no personal property or has no bank balance. His most valuable possession is the love and respect of the people he works for.

Creation of CLAAS:

Muntizar Anthony Joseph Francis started CENTRE FOR LEGAL AID ASSISTANCE & SETTLEMENT (CLAAS) in 1992 and serving as National Director since the creation of CLAAS. As National Director Mr. Joseph Francis provides overall leadership and strategic direction for the organizational matters and manages its 25 staff members in Lahore. He is handling the overall administration as well as national and international affairs of CLAAS and heading fact-finding missions. He is pursuing cases in the courts as well.

The National Director creates and implements annual development plan and strategy to manage the projects. He is providing professional and personal support to staff and observes & evaluates them as needed. He is presiding staff meetings, coordinates professional development for high performance and directs recruiting & staffing. He provides counseling to the victims in their cases and other related issues. Mr. Joseph Francis appears regularly in major media outlets and speaks to audiences around the country. Mr. Joseph Francis is instrumental in the organization’s recent effort to assemble a group of Christian organizations called Pakistan Christian Democratic Alliance to speak out publicly against policies and discriminatory laws especially the blasphemy laws in the country. Mr. Joseph Francis is playing pivotal role in the effort to highlight discriminatory treatments faced by the religious minorities in Pakistan.

Reorganization Nationally and Internationally:

Mr. Joseph Francis has a distinguished record of human rights advocacy in Pakistan and his services are recognized nationally and internationally.

  • In 2000, International Christian AWAZ Canada presented appreciation award in recognition of Mr. Joseph Francis’ dedication, commitment and sensitivity for the Christians of Pakistan.
  • He was honored with French Republic Human Rights Prize in 2002.
  • The British Police Department the LANCASHIRE CONSTABULARY presented an appreciation certificate with Constabulary Medal in 2002.
  • Martin Luther an appreciation award for his work for persecuted Christians in Pakistan presented by Gesellschaft Fur Menschenrechte (IGFM) Germany.
  • Church world Services – Pakistan/Afghanistan awarded CLAAS & Mr. Joseph Francis for being a voice for the voiceless & a beacon of hope for the last forty two years.
  • Full Gospel Church awarded in recognition and dedication services towards Christian community.
  • The Advocates International presented “A GOOD SAMARITAN” award in 2004. The Bright Future Society awarded a gold medal and certificate of excellence for outstanding services for protecting human rights in September 2006.
  • Peace Award from National Commission for Inter-Religious Dialogue Ecumenism in December 13th, 2006.
  • In 2009, the International Gesellschaft Fur Menschenrechte (IGFM) Germany honored with an appreciation certificate and cash prize for the protection of persecuted Christians in Pakistan.
  • House of Commons the Federal Government of CANADA and the Government of Ontario has awarded with an appreciation award on January 28, 2011.
  • On June 16, 2011 Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the ll has appointed him to be an Honorary Member of The Most Excellent Order of the Brutish Empire MBE.
  • He was one of the final candidates for the Sakharov prize of the European Parliament in December 2012.
  • In April 2013 Mr. Akbar Naqi station commander of the Navel Head Quarter Lahore presented him the highest navel Award for CLAAS work for the persecuted in Pakistan.

He is a council member of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), Executive member of Advocates International Washington and Advocates International Asia. He is also Chairman Pakistan Christian National Party and President Pakistan Christian Democratic Alliance (PCDA).