UK backing for petition launched against blasphemy law in Pakistan

By staff writers
August 24, 2009

Following the inciting of attacks on Christians and on occasion, also on Muslims in Pakistan and the inability of the police and local judiciary to protect innocent people, a petition calling for a change in the country's blasphemy law has been launched in the UK and elsewhere.

The initiative follows widespread discussions with church partners and correspondents in Pakistan, Christian and Muslim organisations in the United Kingdom and with the Pakistan authorities.

An announcement on the Archbishop of Canterbury's website over the past few days declared: "[T]here is a desire amongst many people to express their concerns to the Government of Pakistan and to press for change in the blasphemy legislation and for the protection of Christians and others who are suffering from its abuse."

The petition has been signed by the Rt Rev Michael Jackson, who chairs the Anglican Communion Network for Inter-Faith Concerns and also by Dr Musharraf Hussain, Chair of the Christian-Muslim Forum.

The Rt Rev David James, Anglican Bishop of Bradford was the first signatory.

The petition will be delivered to the Pakistan Government and its organisers say that "it is intended to assist in their efforts to prevent further attacks."

The initiative follows news of recent attacks on the Christian villages of Gojra and Qorian in Pakistan which resulted in the deaths of at least seven innocent men, women and children.

International human rights organisations have ben pressing for many years for a change of the law on blasphemy in Pakistan and other Muslim majority countries.

Laws penalising anti-religious (and specifically anti-Christian speech) were abolished in the UK recently. Free church leaders and some Anglicans opposed them, though many supported them.

A charge of blasphemous libel has recently been introduced in Ireland, with the active support of the Catholic hierarchy there.

Though far less punitive than blasphemy laws in other parts of the world, it is still seen by civil rights campaigners, secularists and religious people opposed to such charges as a blot on the country's human rights record.

The Pakistan blasphemy legislation petition can be signed here:

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