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Fear is silencing Christians in Pakistan, says archbishop

By on Wednesday, 23 November 2011

A poster of Malik Mumtaz Hussain Qadri, the convicted killer of Salman Taseer, governor of Punjab, at a rally in Karachi (Photo: CNS)

A poster of Malik Mumtaz Hussain Qadri, the convicted killer of Salman Taseer, governor of Punjab, at a rally in Karachi (Photo: CNS)

Fear has silenced the voice of Pakistani Christians since the political murder of Shahbaz Bhatti last spring, the retired Archbishop of Lahore has said.

Archbishop Lawrence Saldanha said: “People are very sad, very bitter. They said: ‘If that happens to him what happens to us?’ ”

Bhatti’s killers remain at large. The convicted murderer of Salman Taseer, the former governor of Punjab, was greeted in court with rose petals and garlands. In an atmosphere of impunity for anyone who kills a Christian, many educated Pakistani Christians are leaving the country. Those who remain are keeping their heads down and their mouths shut, said Archbishop Saldanha.

“In such a situation, minorities don’t have much place. There’s no tolerance for other religions,” he said. “Either you convert or you leave. This is the choice.”

Archbishop Saldanha moved to Toronto in early November, joining his extended family in the city’s east end, where he hopes to involve himself in parish ministry. He made his comments to the Catholic Register, a Canadian Catholic weekly.

He said that in the more than 50 years since his priestly ordination, he had seen his country slide from corrupt oligarchy to military rule to mob rule.

“Everything is a big mess there – economically, socially, religiously,” he said.

Bhatti was Pakistan’s minister responsible for minorities. He was killed March 2. Taseer was murdered by his own bodyguard Jan. 4. Both men spoke publicly against Pakistan’s blasphemy laws.

Waves of suicide bombings, targeted killings and death threats against Christians have human rights campaigners and staff for the Pakistani bishops’ justice and peace commission keeping their statements low-key and their names out of the papers. Even educated Muslims in Pakistan’s cities have turned against the country’s religious minorities, the archbishop said.

“The mentality is changing, especially among the middle class and lower-middle class,” said Archbishop Saldanha, who led the justice and peace commission for 10 years. “They are being Talibanised.”

  • ms Catholic state

    It’s getting very nasty in Pakistan.  There are now calls for the Holy name of ‘Jesus Christ’ to be classified as offensive and banned.  I don’t think this measure will make it through…..yet.  I’m sure the Vatican is doing all it can for the beleagured Pakistani Christians…..but in my opinion the Vatican must get some political muscle behind it as well as its behind-the-scenes diplomatic efforts. 

    An alliance of pro-Christian nations for the protection of Christians might be an idea to consider soon.

  • Anonymous

    So much for Islam being a religion of peace. Catholics must speak out for Pakistani Christians. Coptic Christians are also being driven out of Iraq. Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Syria. Now Egypt Brotherhood persecutes Christians. Speak out against this hate. Cut off aid and diplomatic relations would change things. Suggest Bishops make noises as well. 

  • Thomas Poovathinkal



  • Thomas Poovathinkal

    Archbishop Saldanha moved to Toronto in early November, joining his
    extended family in the city’s east end, where he hopes to involve
    himself in parish ministry.”



    Fr.Thomas Poovathinkal

  • Anupam Sharma

    The present scenario seems that Christianity will be wiped out from Pakistan because of the persecution and atrocities. The rich and educated are migrating to western countries but what will happen to the poor. The Church should try to settle these people in safe destinations if it is possible. All muslim countries does not allow Christian beliefs to flourish but in Christian countries they will have thousands of mosques and will live a happy life. If they do not allow our faith then why should we………………

  • Lorna Rodrigues

    Dear Fr. Thomas Poovathinkal,
    I have been a parishoner at St. Michael’s Cathedral in Toronto fro over 19 years.  Unfortunately, I have not met Archbishop Saldanha but I have attended a few Masses and services that he has presided over.  He is needed and greatly appreciated by parishoners and his peers in Toronto.
    I do not believe that Archbishop Saldanha is “running away” by coming to Toronto.
    At age 75 it is a feat that retired Archbishop Saldanha is still an active priest, now in Toronto.  I have no doubt that his decision was made through prayer and meditation.  I also feel strongly that our Mother Mary and Our Lord helped with his decision.
    I have followed his vocational career in Pakistan over the past two decades.  This is the right move for him.  It takes courage and humity to leave everything he has worked toward behind. I am sure his heart still lies with his friends, peers and parishoners in Pakistan.  He can still keep in touch and be involved, offer advice via skype, radio, TV, internet, newspapers and all forms of social media.  The battles left behind need to be carried on by others while Bishop Saldanha continues to minister to the public and parishoners in Toronto.  He has helped with Masses and Confessions at St. Michael’s Cathedral in Toronto.  Wherever he goes, his gentle humble yet most effective presence, is most revered and appreciated.  He is exactly where he should be;  our Toronto parishes could use many more retired priests of Archbishop Saldanha’s calibre, dedication and dignity.
    God bless and guide you Father Poovathinkal.
    In God we trust, sincerely,
    Lorna Rodrigues, Toronto Canada.
    Romans 14:4 (NKJV) “Who are you to judge another’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand.”