Columban speaks on Vatican Radio about Pakistan’s blasphemy laws

14th September 2012 - by Ellen Teague

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Fr Robert McCullock, who worked for 34 years in Pakistan, is now procurator general of the Columban Missionaries in Rome. Here he speaks on Vatican Radio about Pakistan’s blasphemy laws.

 

The recent release on bail of a young Pakistani girl, fraudulently accused of burning pages of the Koran, marks a turning point in the way government leaders may be willing to protect minorities accused under the country’s harsh blasphemy laws. That’s the view of Fr Robert who met with Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari earlier this year after receiving an award for services to the country and discussed the need to tackle the ‘abuse and misuse of the blasphemy laws’.

Statements from Pakistani leaders about the case of Rimsha Misih, released on bail last Friday, he says, show they are now willing to confront local corruption and fundamentalist threats. It’s important, he adds, for those leaders to be supported as they seek to restore the inclusive ideology upon which Pakistan was originally founded.

Listen to Fr Robert’s interview with Vatican Radio’s Philippa Hitchen on: http://media01.radiovaticana.va/audiomp3/00333240.MP3

Fr Robert says the present government of Pakistan was left with the uncomfortable legacy of the blasphemy laws “introduced by military dictator Zia Ul Haq who politicised Islam and Islamised politics”, negating the founding ideology of the nation.

He says he spoke on Tuesday about the Rimsha case with Pakistan’s ambassador to the Holy See who shared hopes “for her total freedom” through the ongoing judicial process.

Fr Robert says “Its been a tragic incident for Rimsha, her family and the 250 Christian families that live in that area. Nevertheless I believe we’re on the threshold of a turning point in dealing with these horrible and unjust blasphemy laws. We cannot expect the laws are going to be repealed – if legislation for that was brought into the national assembly, there’d be riots in the streets and every non-Muslim person, school, church would be threatened. The point is to directly approach the way in which they are applied and that’s why we requested – and we see it’s being implemented – they be lifted (from local level) onto the highest level in the province. I think the president and leaders have to be positively supported – it’s a very difficult path they’re walking, but thanks be to God they’re walking it.”