Fifty people gathered to pray for Pakistan The Italian Evangelical Alliance asks authorities to “implement effective measures to ensure the safety of Christian minorities”.
In recent weeks, in the Pakistani Punjab there have been incidents of torture and harassment against Christians, burning of homes, Bibles have been set on fire, and already more than 25 Christian churches have been burned or destroyed.
These include numerous evangelical churches and also a Catholic church.
Last week further acts of violence toward Christians occurred in other localities: particularly in Madina Town, Sargodha, and Sahiwal, and further disturbing developments are also taking place in Karachi.
To give voice to the evangelical church under attack, there was a prayer sit-in in front of the Embassy of Pakistan in Rome on Saturday, Aug. 26.
Fifty people participated, representing Roman evangelical churches and Pakistani churches in Italy (Trento, Bologna, Rome).
After speeches by Pakistani evangelicals explaining what happened, there were several moments of public prayer for the Pakistani nation, its authorities, people, and the evangelical church.
There was also prayer for the defense of religious freedom and minorities.
For years the Italian Evangelical Alliance (AEI) has also supported the persecuted church with prayer sit-ins in front of the embassies of countries where Christians suffer threats or harassment.
This is a public form of witness that puts together prayer and visible action of support, which often results in direct contact with the country's authorities.
Afterwards, a delegation of the AEI composed of Giacomo Ciccone (president), Lucia Stelluti (vice-president), Damaris Marletta (Religious Freedom Commission) and two representatives of Pakistani evangelical churches in Italy were received at the Embassy by a group of officials delegated by the ambassador.
Following a cordial conversation, a letter was left for the ambassador, where the AEI asks the government of Pakistan to “implement new and effective measures to ensure the safety and any other constitutional rights of Christian minorities” .
They also called on them to guarantee a fair trial for the two falsely accused Christians, “the immediate release” of some of their family members, who were also arrested by the Police in the past few days, and to “provide compensation measures for those who have seen their homes and property destroyed”.
[photo_footer] Representatives of the Italian Evangelical Alliance and Pakistani Christians meet with the authorities. / AEI. [/photo_footer]
The AEI , in cooperation with evangelical NGOs committed to the persecuted church, was also received at the Foreign Ministry on Monday, Aug. 28, by the Central Director for Asia and Oceania Countries, Dr. Alessandra Schiavo.
The delegation included President Giacomo Ciccone, Vice President Lucia Stelluti, Damaris Marletta and Oreste Ponticiello of the Religious Freedom Commission, Latif Jacob (Pak o Hind Association) and Giovanni Tagliaferri (ACP Italy).
The meeting focused on the delicate situation in Pakistan. After reporting on the outcomes of the talks held in the Pakistani embassy on Saturday, August 26, the Alliance shared news updated up to a few hours before of the families directly affected, then focused on some very high-risk situations and delivered up-to-date Open Doors reports on the Central Asian country.
They also paid special attention also to the situation of asylum claims of Pakistanis in Italy.
[photo_footer] Representatives of the Italian Evangelical Alliance and Pakistani Christians meet with the authorities. / AEI.[/photo_footer]
The discussion then shifted to other countries in the Asian region at high risk of religious persecution and where the majority of Christians are evangelicals, where the Evangelical Alliance's international network can provide "news from the field" as well as cooperate with the Italian government for incisive and coordinated action.
Minister Plenipotentiary, Alessandra Schiavo was very attentive to the AEI's requests, while reiterating her desire for continued fruitful cooperation.
On the sidelines of the meeting, AEI Vice-President Stelluti said that they "have always dreamed that the AEI, along with NGOs committed to the persecuted church, can jointly engage both in advocacy and through the IDOP (Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church) prayer established by the World Evangelical Alliance for many years".
"The first part has happened here today, as Open Doors, Voice of The Martyrs and ACP have cooperated with the Evangelical Alliance in different ways. We are eager to continue such fruitful cooperation in the future and also through synergistic IDOP prayer initiatives", added Stelluti.
[title] The letter to the Pakistan embassy in Italy [/title]
[text]The letter that the AEI wrote to the ambassador reads, among other things:
The country you represent, Pakistan, is certainly one of the most important countries in Asia. Pakistan has distinguished itself in the region over the past 70 years, both by its progressive adherence to a democratic form of government, its strong economic growth, and its ability to integrate diverse ethnic groups into its jurisdiction.
We are also convinced that another fundamental indicator reveals the figure of a democracy and the greatness of a country: the ability to allow different religious orientations to coexist peacefully, guaranteeing each of them the right to publicly exercise their religious profession while respecting the right of others. Religious freedom, in fact, is the main indicator for measuring the greatness of a country.
We are aware that Pakistan has been on a positive path, on the challenge of improving the conditions of some religious minorities, but we are punctually aware of how far it still needs to go and of the fact that for several years now, cyclically Christian minorities have been the target of intimidation and violence.
In particular, in recent weeks The Italian Evangelical Alliance is deeply concerned about the violence and unrest that has occurred in the Pakistani Punjab and is still ongoing.
From the reports we have directly from the ground in Jaranwala, the accusations against the two Christians seem entirely false and aimed at fomenting unrest.
Indeed, as a result numerous Christians have been tortured or harassed, their homes have been ravaged, Bibles have been set on fire, and already more than 25 Christian churches have been burned or destroyed. These include numerous evangelical churches and also a Catholic church.
In recent days further acts of violence toward Christians have also occurred in other locations such as Madina Town, Sargodha, and Sahiwal, and further disturbing developments are also taking place in Karachi, where the walls of a Protestant church were daubed with Koranic writings and local authorities left them there by covering them with flags.
In the city of Rawalpindi, numerous Christians had to leave their homes.
Every time a Pakistani leaves his or her home it is a defeat for the state because someone has decided to leave the land where he or she would like to live.
For all these reasons, we ask:
- That the Government of Pakistan implement new and effective measures to ensure the safety and any other constitutional rights of Christian minorities
- That the two falsely accused Christians be guaranteed a fair trial.
- the immediate release of some family members of the two, who were also arrested by the Police in the past few days.
- Provide compensation measures for those who have seen their homes and property destroyed.
We are also working with the Italian government on these issues through the support of some evangelical NGOs. [/text]