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Sunday, December 11, 2016
Pakistan: Christians face growing pressures
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¬†Intolerance against the Christian minority in the overwhelmingly Muslim country of Pakistan has increased in recent years, according to Bishop Joseph Coutts of the diocese of Faisalabad. While day-to-day relations between Christians and Muslims continue to be relatively peaceful, there are radical Islamic groups in Pakistan who think like the Taliban in Afghanistan, and are seeking to impose a militant form of Islam, the Bishop said, during a recent visit to Aid to the Church in Need. He said these groups were committed to introducing still more radical Islamic laws in order to turn Pakistan into an exclusively Muslim land. Meanwhile even the existing laws, in particular the Blasphemy Law, were already making their project easier, the Bishop added. Bishop Coutts said that only one or two per cent of the 132 million Pakistanis are Christians. But thanks to their strong social commitment they have earned the regard and estimation of the rulers and of large sections of the population. In his own diocese, where 140,000 Catholics live among a population of 30 million people, Catholics organise anti-drugs workshops, run a school for the blind and provide medical treatment and care for numerous sick people. A further problem for the Catholic church in Pakistan is the acute shortage of priests. For although there are a handful of foreign missionaries, the Bishop pointed out they alone could never supply the need for priests and religious. In the diocese of Faisalabad itself there are enough vocations, because here there are four villages, founded by Belgian missionaries, whose inhabitants are around 50 per cent Catholic. Eight of the 40 priests of this diocese still have to help out in the other dioceses of the country. And catechists too are now undertaking important duties in the parishes, following a three-year training course at the catechetical centre. During recent years Aid to the Church in Need has helped the diocese with numerous projects, including the construction of chapels, the training of major seminarians, the provision of transport for pastoral work and Mass stipends for the support of its priests. And for the church in Pakistan as a whole, the charity has contributed over £800,000 over the last five years.
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