Cardinal Urges Pakistan to Amend Controversial Blasphemy Laws

The Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh, Cardinal Keith Patrick O’Brien has called for a change to Pakistan's controversial blasphemy laws, which have recently been cited as the cause of numerous attacks on Christians.

He has expressed his support last week for a petition by “Aid to the Church in Need” calling for a change in Pakistan’s laws.

According to ICN Cardinal O’Brien said, “I have been aware of the persecution of Christians and those of other faiths in Pakistan and I am only too happy to endorse this petition.”

Cardinal O’Brien has been outspoken in his support for Christians facing persecution in Pakistan. In March, he criticized government plans to double aid to Pakistan when it still have not increased provisions to protect the country's Christians and other vulnerable communities.

The Aid to the Church in Need petition has already gained more than 1,000 signatures in less than a week since its launch.

It is hoped that the petition will increase pressure on the government to increase support of persecuted minorities in Pakistan. It will be presented to 10 Downing Street on July 2 as the climax of a march in collaboration with other Christian and non-Christian organizations calling for a change in Pakistan’s blasphemy laws.

The controversial blasphemy laws have been accused of being abused by those wishing to enact violence on religious minorities in Pakistan. In numerous incidents reported in the past few months, violence would be perpetrated against a Christian and then the attacker would accuse them of blasphemy in violation of the blasphemy law.

A violation of the country’s blasphemy laws can result in severe penalties as it is considered a serious offence against Islam. Depending on what the defendant is accused of, the resulting sentence could be as severe as life imprisonment or even death by execution.

According to ICN, the march on July 2 will see a number of prominent Christian leaders and organizations taking part including Dr Michael Nazir Ali, former Anglican Bishop of Rochester and the Rev Stuart Windsor, National Director of Christian Solidarity Worldwide.

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