MIRACLES HAPPEN – EVEN TO GRITTY LAWYERS JACK SULLIVAN ON HIS HEALING THROUGH THE INTERCESSION OF NEWMAN P8
August 7 2009 £1.20 (Republic of Ireland €1.70)
Christians burned to death in Pakistan Eight dead, 50 homes and two churches destroyed in attacks Benedict XVI condemns ‘senseless’ wave of violence Blasphemy laws blamed for rising persecution of Christians
BY WILL HEAVEN
EIGHT Pakistani Christians were killed, 50 homes destroyed and two churches burned when a rampaging mob of up to 3,000 Muslims tore through the town of Gojra, in eastern Pakistan, last Saturday.
The victims, who included two young children, were either burned alive or shot.
The attacks were said to be among the bloodiest against Pakistani Christians in the country’s history. Some of those killed were understood to be Catholics.
The mob gathered after rumours had spread that children had cut up a schoolbook which included verses from the Koran. The children had supposedly been making confetti for a local wedding.
As well as those killed, more than 20 people were injured in the attack as the mob, carrying sticks, clubs and a small number of firearms, took to the streets last weekend.
The attacks came two days after a related incident in the nearby village of Korian where gangs set fire to more than 70 Christian homes and two small Protestant churches.
A telegram was sent on behalf of Pope Benedict XVI to Bishop Joseph Coutts of the Catholic Diocese of Faisalabad. It said the Pontiff was “deeply grieved to learn of the senseless attack on the Christian community of Gojra city which resulted in the tragic killing of innocent men, women and children”. The message also included condolences to the families of the victims and expressed solidarity with the survivors.
“In the name of God he appeals to everyone to renounce the way of violence, which causes so much suffering, and to embrace the way of peace,” the telegram said.
The Pope asked Bishop Coutts to “encourage the whole diocesan community, and all Christians in Pakistan, not to be deterred in their efforts to help build a society which, with a profound sense of trust in religious and human values, is marked by mutual respect
Boys stand in front of a burned home in the village of Korian in the Punjab province of Pakistan. The predominantly Christian village was destroyed in a raid CNS
among all its members”. The bishop expressed his grief and anger after the attacks. Speaking from Pakistan in an interview with Aid to the Church in Need, the Catholic charity for persecuted Christians, Bishop Coutts said: “There is a lot of anger among the people about what has happened. Emotions are running extremely high. People could respond in any way. This is undoubtedly one of
the worst attacks we have faced.”
Bishop Coutts presided at the funerals of those killed in the Gojra violence last Sunday. He denounced the failure of the authorities to tackle the causes of the violence and criticised the police for not acting quickly to stop the mob, describing the official response to the violence as “halfhearted and ineffective”.
The bishop said the number of
recent attacks against Christians was a clear signal that their safety was being ignored.
He said: “In all these cases, the police did almost nothing to stop the rampaging mobs. Condolences, apologies and assurances always pour in from officials and other citizens after the event, but the timely action required to prevent such incidents has always been missing.”
Bishop Coutts stressed the continuing need to work towards inter-religious cooperation.
On Tuesday the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, appealed to the government of Pakistan to ensure “that justice is done in the wake of these terrible events”. Dr Williams also criticised Pakistan’s “draconian laws against blasphemy”.
Christian groups have repeat
edly called for the repeal of Pakistan’s 1986 blasphemy laws, which deal harshly with perceived “crimes of disrespect” towards the Koran or the Prophet Mohammed. Perpetrators of these crimes are liable to sentences of life imprisonment or the death penalty, according to the decrees of sharia law. Critics say the laws target Christians who have reportedly had 23 per cent of blasphemy
cases brought against them, despite only representing three per cent of Pakistan’s predominantly Muslim population.
John Pontifex, a spokesman for Aid to the Church in Need, said Pakistan’s laws against blasphemy were encouraging vigilantism.
He said: “The blasphemy laws as they stand amount to mob rule, and we know that Christians are suffering persecution and vendettas at the hands of Pakistan’s Muslim majority.”
Pakistan’s missionary schools closed on Monday to mourn those who were killed in the violence.
Bishop Sadiq Daniel, head of the Anglican diocese in Karachi and the south-western Baluchistan province, said: “Christian schools will remain closed for three days from today to mourn the death of innocent people in Gojra.”
He added: “There is no proof of blasphemy, but if someone has done that he, and not the entire community, should be punished.”
Officials denied that rumours concerning the desecration of verses from the Koran had any basis.
Shahbaz Bhatti, Pakistan’s minister for minorities, said authorities were also investigating reports that “masked men armed with explosives” were at the forefront of the violence, indicating that Islamist militias were involved.
“Allegations of desecration of the Holy Koran, which were used as an excuse by banned [Islamist] groups to foment such a big scale of violence, were baseless and without grounds,” he told a news conference on Monday.
Punjab’s provincial police chief Tariq Salim Dogar said that 64 people had been arrested in connection with the attacks.
However, the head of the Catholic Church in Pakistan released a statement which complained that when Christians were attacked the culprits were “arrested but never brought to justice”.
The statement also demanded that the Pakistani authorities decide on “a comprehensive policy” to eliminate “hate speeches” against other religions.
Archbishop laments the decline of the traditional English pub
BY JOHN HINTON
LOCAL PUBS facing closure have found an improbable ally in Archbishop Vincent Nichols, who has said he regards them as a microcosm of society at its best.
In an interview with the Sunday Telegraph , the Archbishop of Westminster said: “There are pubs where people have their corner and they’re a bit eccentric, but they’re welcomed. If they don’t turn up, someone will
go and see what’s happened.”
The Archbishop added that it was no coincidence that the pub has declined as an institution at a time when individualism and greed have risen. He feared that this was undermining communities and eroding the “common good”.
A spokesman for the British Beer and Pub Association said: “It’s great that the Archbishop enjoys spending time in pubs and recognises
the role that pubs play in local community life. Like local shops, post offices and, of course, churches, pubs provide the vital ties that bind communities together, bringing together people from all walks of life.”
Fr Tim Finigan, the leading Catholic blogger, echoed the Archbishop’s comments, saying the decline of the traditional pub was a sad feature of modern Britain.
“A good pub will encourage responsible drinking
with good beers that have a moderate alcohol content and allow social contact between people of different ages,” he said.
“I think one of the most important things in society today is to encourage the young to mix with people of all ages, to grow up with the benefit of older, more experienced people – and to mix and interact with others of different tastes and interests.”
Editorial Comment: Page 13
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Pope joins Elton John’s record label
Ghana’s cardinal ‘to head Vatican council’
BY ALANNAH FRANCIS
POPE BENEDICT XVI is to release an album on a record label that is home to stars such as Snoop Dogg and Elton John.
The Geffen record label announced last week that Alma Mater , an album of prayers including the Litany of Loreto with musical accompaniment, would be available to buy from November 30.
Colin Barlow, president of Geffen UK, said: “The great thing about the Pope is that he’s got fantastic tone, very soothing but commanding.”
The album of eight tracks features the Pope singing one prayer and reciting others in Latin, Italian, Portuguese, French and German. The Vatican supplied the recordings, made at services and on foreign trips.
The proceeds of the album will go towards providing music education for underprivileged children.
Nick Thomas: Page 12
BY WILL HEAVEN
A GHANAIAN cardinal described as “one of the African Church’s most energetic leaders” will become the head of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, according to an influential commentator.
Cardinal Peter Turkson has already been chosen by Pope Benedict XVI to
be the Relator, or spokesman, at the Synod of African bishops later this year. Now Il Giornale ’s veteran journalist, Andrea Tornielli, claims he will replace Cardinal Renato Martino, who is soon to retire, as head of the Council.
Cardinal Turkson is
known as a media
and is fluent in eight languages, including Hebrew, which he
learned by writing on the wall of his seminary bedroom.
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