A Catholic priest said today that he fears a backlash against Christians in Pakistan amid reports of escalating violence in neighboring Afghanistan over the burning of a Qu’ran by American military personnel who called the incident accidental.
Father Aftab James Paul, director of Faisalabad’s diocesan Commission for Interfaith Dialogue and Ecumenism, said he had received calls from news agencies asking if violence had broken out in Pakistan.
Although five people have been killed and dozens more injured across the border, the priest said no violence has been reported in Pakistan over the incident but he has been in “close contact” with Muslim leaders.
“We have always condemned NATO forces for killing Afghanis. Now [the soldiers] have hurt their faith,” he said.
Fr James Channan, regional coordinator for the United Religious Initiative, said an apology issued earlier by General John Allen, US commander in Afghanistan, was not enough.
“The mistake of one soldier can set fire around the globe. Similar incidents were reported in Iraq,” he said.
“The soldiers must be trained to respect religions as well. This is very depressing.”
Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam, a Muslim political party, said in a statement today that it will begin a protest campaign.
“This is not the first time. We are being instigated. Later they will blame us for being terrorists and extremists,” said Amjad Saeed Rahimi, the party’s leader in Lahore.