U.K.'s Pakistani Christians March for Justice

Pakistani Christians in the United Kingdom marched through central London on Saturday in a call for justice for their brothers and sisters facing persecution in Pakistan.

The marchers handed in petitions at the Pakistan embassy and at 10 Downing Street, while speakers from different faith and ethnic backgrounds made presentations.

The march was led by Christian leaders from Pakistan and other South Asian communities to put pressure on the Pakistani government to bring the perpetrators of brutal attacks on Christians to justice.

Dozens of Christians in Pakistan are still living in tents after their homes were burned down by Muslim extremists in Gojra in August. The attack on the small Christian town north of Lahore was triggered by an accusation of blasphemy leveled against some of the residents and resulted in the destruction of some 50 houses and the deaths of seven Christians, several of whom were burnt to death in their home.

Although the Pakistani government has offered some practical assistance and pledged to rebuild the homes, the perpetrators have yet to be brought to justice.

Alex Chowdhry of the British Pakistani Christian Association said Christians in Pakistan were "displaced, destitute and under constant threat."

"The Pakistan government must act swiftly and decisively against extremists who commit these attacks," he said.

"We join the British Government's criticism of these incidents and seek further international pressure on the Government of Pakistan to act for justice and peace."

The British Pakistani Christian Association is calling on the Pakistani government to repeal the blasphemy law, which Christians in the country say is being abused by Muslim extremists to persecute them.

Blasphemy is punishable by death in Pakistan and any person accused of the crime faces immediate and indefinite detention in prison, sometimes waiting years before their case is brought to trial.

The march was also supported by the South Asian Evangelical Alliance. Its chairman Ram Gidoomal said incidents like the Gojra attack were disturbing.

"They threaten the stability and well-being of Pakistan," he said.

"We deplore what has happened and urge the government of Pakistan to act for justice. And we call on the churches in the U.K. to join us in praying for the peace of Pakistan at a time like this."

The Gojra attack was not an isolated incident. In April this year, four people were injured and one killed in violence against Christians in Karachi, while in July around a hundred houses were burnt to the ground, looted or vandalized, and girls were assaulted in an attack on the village of Bahmani Wala.

CLAAS, a legal group supporting persecuted Christians in Pakistan, said 2009 had been the worst year in the last decade for violence against the Christian community.

According to the group, at least seven Christian settlements and churches had been attacked this year and nine Christians murdered by extremists under the pretext of the blasphemy law.