An international public hearing highlighting the plight of religious minorities and misuse of blasphemy law in Pakistan will be held from 17 to 19 September in conjunction with the 21st Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva. Organized by the World Council of Churches Commission of the Churches on International Affairs (CCIA), the consultation will be held at the Ecumenical Centre in Geneva, Switzerland, only a short distance from the United Nations.
The event continues the WCC’s efforts to support and be in solidarity with religious minorities in Pakistan who are victimized in the name of its controversial blasphemy law. The blasphemy cases have resulted in death penalties and mob-instigated violence since the definition of the law was inserted into the Pakistan Penal Code. Amendments to the law were made by military ruler General Zia-ul-Haq in 1980s. The blasphemy law has often been criticized as vague and arbitrary. The event will engage the international community, representatives of religious minorities and civil society organizations in Pakistan, specialised ministries, UN officials and representatives of international civil society organizations working on the rights of religious minority communities in Pakistan.
“The public hearing aims to heighten discussions at international levels on the deteriorating situation of the human rights of minorities in Pakistan and misuse of blasphemy law, through which the death sentence was made mandatory for blaspheming. We hope to strengthen initiatives that have greater impact on public and governments by involving ecumenical advocacy for minorities in the country,” said Dr Mathews George Chunakara, the director of CCIA. “The international hearing will also create a platform to address the concerns of persecuted religious minorities to make their voices heard in the international arena and particularly at the United Nation’s Human Rights Council,” he added.