European Parliamentarians mission led by Mr. Peter van Dalen (Netherlands), Mr. Arne Gericke (Germany) and Mr. Marek Jurek (Poland) visited Pakistan Centre for Legal Aid Assistance & Settlement (CLAAS) on November 4, 2015. The mission aims at a fact finding on blasphemy laws in Pakistan and their application. Mr. M.A Joseph Francis met delegation on a breakfast and gave them a detailed briefing on the current situation of religious minorities in Pakistan. He shared that Pakistan’s laws abridge religious freedom, blasphemy laws have become a major source of victimization and persecuted of minorities. These laws have also misused by religious extremists to commit grave acts of violence against Christian towns; Gojra, Shanti Nagar, Joseph Colony. Public school textbooks used by all children often had a strong Islamic orientation, and Pakistan’s religious minorities were referenced derogatorily or omitted altogether; Hindus were depicted in especially negative terms, and references to Christians were often inaccurate and offensive; which created religious intolerance. Cases of forced conversion were affecting Christian girls belonging to the smaller communities.
The delegation later visited Youhanabad to glimpse the Churches under attack; Christ Church and St. John’s Catholic Church. Delegation met with the local residents and heard their views.
CLAAS has arranged meeting between delegation and Asia’s family (a blasphemy victim). Delegation inquired about Asia’s health and situation in confinement. Mr. Ashiq shared that she read bible to raise her spirits and is in better health condition. Mr. Peter Van Dalen shared a letter to Mr. Ashiq on behalf of EU parliamentarians. Mr. Arne Gericke and Mr. Marek Jurek shared bible verses and spiritual cards with the family to have strong faith in Christ.
After that the delegation had a brief meeting with CLAAS’ executive management at CLAAS’ office to discuss the blasphemy matters in detail and also saw the blasphemy victims files prepared by CLAAS office.
CLAAS has arranged a MEPs meeting with Victims of Youhanaabad, blasphemy cases victims and victims of forced conversion. Victims personally shared their stories and situation they gone through after blasphemy allegation or arrest in Youhanabad incident. They also requested to put pressure on Pakistani Government to release the innocent who are under arrest. They had also a chance to meet the victims in person during the lunch.
MEP said that their visit to Pakistan is to convey their concern to the Pakistan government and show their support to the persecuted Christians. They further said that they will persuade their fellow parliamentarians and thereafter their respective government to make sure that Pakistan government take appropriate measures to apprehend the culprits and ensure safety of Christians in Pakistan.