European parliamentarian: Pakistan must end abuse of Christians
A leading European Parliament member is calling for a Pakistan's blasphemy laws to be repealed and a 'safe place' found for Christians.
Marijana Petir, a Croatian member of the European Parliament, cites Asia Bibi's treatment in an article for EP Today, the monthly magazine of the parliament, and says this 'cruel reality' is what Christians and other religious minorities face every day.
Known for her outspoken Catholic faith, Petir is also a member of the committee on women's rights and gender equality and did not hide her disdain for Pakistan's leadership.
'Successive Pakistani governments have allowed radicalised extremist forces to thrive, drastically reducing tolerance within society and depriving minority religious groups the right to live safely and with dignity,' she writes for the European Parliament's own news site.
'School textbooks are replete with content that inculcates religious bias in young minds, thereby preparing a future generation that will be rooted in bigotry and intolerance.'
The hard-hitting article comes after a 16-year-old Christian boy became the latest victim of the blasphemy laws. Shahzad Masih, who works as a hospital cleaner in the city of Dinga, was arrested last month after his colleague accused him of insulting Mohammad.
Petir says Christians, who make up 1.6 per cent of Pakistan's population 'live in constant fear of persecution, are denied their basic right to education and livelihood, and forced to live in their own restricted ghetto-like neighbourhoods'.
She adds: 'Apart from facing social discrimination and isolation, Christians are also a regular target of extremist Islamic groups. Over the years, Christian localities have witnessed terror attacks, and their churches vandalised.'
She concludes by calling for the repealing of the blasphemy law and a 'complete transformation of key institutions in the country, starting with education'.
She writes: 'While the international community can only support this endeavour, it is for Pakistan to find a place safe for its Christians and minority groups to live in.'