International Christian Concern has reacted with alarm to a proposal by Muslim clerics and politicians for the Bible to be banned in Pakistan.
In a statement on Thursday, ICC’s Regional Manager for South Asia, Jonathan Racho, said: “We are concerned by this call to the Bible in Pakistan. This demand by the Islamists is additional evidence of the worsening persecution of Christians in Pakistan.”
Last month, the leader of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (Samiul Haq) or JUI-S party demanded for the Supreme Court of Pakistan to ban the Bible, saying “blasphemous” portions had been “added to the Bible.”
Maulana Abdul Rauf Farooqi, a party leader, made the appeal at a press conference at a mosque, the Masjid-e-Khizra, in Lahore. He said if the court did not ban the Bible on its own, Islamic clerics would formally petition the court. A panel of lawyers is working on it, he added.
The scriptures that the Muslims consider blasphemous include: the story of the Last Supper, Jesus’ prayer at Gethsemane, the story about David committing adultery with Bathsheba, the story about Israel worshipping the golden calf, and Jacob’s marriage to Leah.
While Muslims also believe in the torah or the first five books of the Old Testament, the writings of David, the Psalms and the Gospel, they believe the Christian Bible is a “corruption” of the original text.
Farooqi added that his colleagues wanted to avenge the desecration of the Quran by Florida Pastor Terry Jones but they wouldn’t burn the Bible. But to prevent any such act of desecration in the future, he went on to say, at least some punishment was needed and that they would find a way to do so.
Lahore’s Anglican bishop, the Rt. Rev. Dr. Alexander John Malik, said in a statement Wednesday that the call to ban the Bible was interference in the religious matters of the Christian community and violation of religious freedom guaranteed under the Pakistan’s constitution.
The bishop added that the JUI-S party was “sowing seeds of discord” among the two communities and pointed out that Christians all over the world, including the Pope and the Archbishop of Canterbury, had condemned Pastor Terry Jones’ “heinous” act, the daily reported.
In an interview with ICC, Rev. Arif Siraji, who leads a Presbyterian church in Pakistan, said: “The Bible is a universal truth and Christians need not to worry at all [about the threat to ban it].”
He added, “Such threats against Christianity have been happening since the inception of the faith. Being true believers, we should encourage and pray for one another to face such circumstances, and be firm in our faith.
“We should protest peacefully, keeping in mind that our real weapon is prayer.”
ICC’s Racho concluded: “We ask all concerned individuals to urge their governments to pressure Pakistan to not ban the Bible.”