The Government must use the European Union to apply moral pressure to Pakistan if Christians are to be protected in the country, a leading religious freedom campaigner has said.
The comments from Michael Kinsella of Aid to the Church in Need come against the background of Pakistan’s Supreme Court having reached a verdict in the case of Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian woman who was sentenced to death for blasphemy in 2010, and whose case has been on appeal since. The court has reserved its verdict.
“Asia Bibi is by no means an outlier. This is incredibly common in Pakistan, where Christians are maligned, used as scapegoats, and face daily harassment,” Mr Kinsella told The Irish Catholic, describing how Christians in the country are denied jobs, education, and proper legal recourse, and where “the spectre of violence and intimidation looms large”.
“Pakistan receives hundreds of millions of foreign funding from western democracies, and this ostensibly is to secure their commitment and cooperation in the fight against terrorism, but the question Ireland and other countries involved in committing such huge resources to countries like this need to ask is whether or not they actually are terrorising their own people,” he said.
Claiming that it is demonstrably the case that Pakistan is terrorising Christians, Mr Kinsella called on the Government to urge the country’s government to live up to their supposed values.
“Whatever about financial leverage, Ireland should use its moral leverage, whatever it may be, particularly through the European Union, to let it be known that there is a responsibility on the part of Pakistan to live up to the values it says it espouses but demonstrably doesn’t at the moment,” he said.
Maintaining that Asia Bibi and others like her are Pakistani citizens who ought to be afforded the same rights as other Pakistani citizens, Mr Kinsella appealed to Pakistani Muslims in Britain and Ireland to stand up for her.
“I would suggest humbly that the Pakistani community in Ireland should make its own voice known,” he said. “There’s a huge Pakistani community in the UK, and the religious freedoms which are respected in the UK and Ireland for Pakistanis and Muslims – there could be a reciprocity.”