`Tyranny of Piety' Must End: Pakistani Ambassador Admits Country Needs to Rebuild

Article excerpt

"The government has to rebuild not only Shantinagar, but the whole nation of Pakistan," 90 Pakistani Christians were told recently by Pakistani ambassador Dr. Farouk Rana at the Holiday Inn, Brampton, Ont.

A mob of 30,000 Muslims looted and burned 13 churches and most of the homes, schools and shops in the primarily Christian towns of Shantinagar, Bhuttabad and Khanewal on Feb. 5 and 6, razing 785 homes in Shantinagar alone.

In Khanewal, a private medical clinic, a number of clergy homes and a Catholic girls' boarding school were also destroyed.

The rampage began when a torn copy of the Qu'ran, the holy book of Islam, was allegedly discovered in a mosque near Khanewal with the names of Christians scribbled on its pages. Since 1990, there has been a mandatory death penalty in Pakistan for anyone convicted of blasphemy.

Christians claim the mob was incited over the loudspeakers of area mosques and the army, which was stationed only a kilometre from Shantinagar, failed to come to the aid of the 15,000 townspeople.

"I can add my voice to your voice," said Dr. Rana, a Muslim. "It's not your fight anymore. We want to join hands with you.

"When one human being is killed, all humanity dies. What frightens me most is the tyranny of piety."

Dr. Rana had been invited by the International Christian Awaz to address their concerns, together with a dozen local Muslim leaders. …