Pakistani entertainment channel Geo TV has apologized to the country’s Christian minority over a teaser for a new drama series that was said to be promoting religious conversion.
It has also withdrawn the trailer and reassured Christians that Maria Bint e Abdullah will not hurt religious sentiments.
The apology came during a meeting between Christian leaders and Geo TV executives at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Karachi on Oct. 31.
Geo TV recently released the trailer showing Maria, the daughter of a Christian mother and a Muslim father. It begins with images of Sacred Heart Cathedral in Lahore, the crucified Jesus and Maria crying with a rosary in her hand.
The promo provoked a backlash from Pakistani Christians who felt that the drama would show that Christianity was inferior to Islam.
A protest was organized by the Christian community under the umbrella of the Pakistan Catholic bishops’ National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP) on Oct. 29 in Karachi.
At the meeting Father Saleh Diego, vicar general of Karachi Archdiocese and director of NCJP Karachi, told Geo TV representatives that many non-Muslim girls in Pakistan were being forced to change religion, with one underage Hindu girl recently kidnapped by a Muslim and forced to marry him.
“These types of TV dramas create hatred and pain in the hearts of minorities in Pakistan,” he added.
Father Mario Rodrigues, rector of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, said the recent production of dramas showing Christian girls marrying Muslims was “a bad move and a ruthless act.”
Kashif Anthony, coordinator and secretary of NCJP Karachi, reminded the delegation that whenever someone insulted Muslims or Islam anywhere in the world, Pakistani Christians and other minorities stood beside Muslims to protest and support Islam as a religion of peace.
“We applaud and congratulate all the Muslims of the world on the recent decision of the European Court of Human Rights in which it is said that defaming the holy Prophet Muhammad exceeds the permissible limits of freedom of expression,” he said.
“In the same way, we demand that all the faiths and religions in Pakistan among Muslim majorities should be respected and given full rights to living and practicing their faiths.”
Geo TV executives issued a joint statement in which they said they felt the pain of the Christian community over the teaser for the TV drama.
Managing director Abdullah Kadwani assured the entire Christian community that the issue would be resolved. The company will soon send a letter to the Christian community to clarify that the drama does not contain anything which may offend religious sentiments.
“Geo will further ensure that the entire drama complies with the approved code of conduct and does not hurt any religious sentiment, especially in relation to emblems and their usage,” the company said.