By Kashif Nawab
A powerful and determined demonstration unfolded in front of the Pakistani Embassy in The Hague, as Dutch Christians raised their voices in condemnation of the Jaranwala incident in Pakistan. The event drew a significant crowd, united by their unwavering demand for justice and accountability concerning the grave incident. The protestors, driven by deep concerns, called for decisive actions against those responsible and underscored the misapplication of blasphemy laws as a means of intimidating and persecuting Christians.
Organized by the Action Committee of Pakistani Christians, the demonstration bore a strong resolve to ensure justice for the victims of the Jaranwala incident and to prevent the recurrence of such horrendous acts. Demonstrators categorically rejected the claim put forth by the Inspector General of Punjab, dismissing it as a baseless narrative, that India was involved in the incident.
Front and center at the event, a delegation from the Action Committee presented a petition addressed to the President of Pakistan to embassy authorities. The petition outlined essential demands, placing justice against those implicated in the Jaranwala incident at the forefront. The committee highlighted the urgent necessity of rebuilding Christian homes, churches, and cemeteries that were targets of vandalism during the attack.
Additionally, the demonstrators stressed the imperative of banning religious extremist parties such as Tehreek-e-Labbaik, entities consistently associated with promoting intolerance and violence, which has adversely affected Pakistan’s reputation. The community delegation seized the opportunity to engage with the Pakistani Ambassador, conveying their concerns and reservations directly and with profound impact.
Key figures within the delegation included Watson Gill, Ijaz Mathew Zulfiqar, Gasper Daniel, Pastor Eric Sarwar, Azim Masih, and Pastor Nadeem Deen. Their presence symbolized the unity and determination of the Christian community, resolutely standing up for their rights and demanding justice for the victims of the Jaranwala incident. The delegation submitted the petition to the Ambassador, urging him to prioritize the safety and security of Christians in Pakistan.
Bishop Arshed Khokar, a prominent voice, emphasized that those responsible for orchestrating the violence and defiling churches and Holy Bibles must be held accountable in accordance with blasphemy laws. The call for accountability echoed powerfully, underscoring the vital importance of justice to cultivate a secure and inclusive environment for all religious communities.
Joseph Jansen, an advocacy officer at Jubilee Campaign, stressed the concerning pattern of violence directed at religious minorities through the abuse of blasphemy laws. He highlighted the alarming use of religious phrases and slogans by extremists during acts of destruction, such as the burning of churches and vandalizing of Christian homes in Jaranwala. Jansen denounced such actions as disgraceful, shedding light on the broader issue of religious intolerance and the distortion of laws designed to protect beliefs.
Watson Gill voiced profound concerns over religious freedom violations and the stifling of freedom of expression in Pakistan. They called on the European Union to assess Pakistan’s adherence to its human rights commitments before extending its Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) Plus status for another four years.
The demonstration stood as a collective declaration against the abuse of blasphemy laws that target religious minorities through false accusations and vigilantism. It echoed the urgent necessity for legal and societal reforms to ensure the safeguarding and equal rights of all citizens, irrespective of their religious affiliations. The global community closely observes these events, urging Pakistan to uphold international agreements and strive for a more tolerant and harmonious society.
As the echoes of this demonstration resonate, they underscore the indomitable spirit of those who demand justice and peace, nurturing hope for a future free from violence and discrimination.