Lahore: February 2, 2011.(Spero News)The radical Islamic groups of the Tehrik Tahaffuz Namoos-i-Risalat network (TTNR -Alliance to defend the honor of the Prophet) burned effigies of Pope Benedict XVI
and the Federal Minister for Minorities, Shahbaz Bhatti, as well as the Christian symbol of the Cross. Bhatti is a Christian and has openly demanded an end to Islamic blasphemy laws and condemned the persecution of minorities such as Christians, Hindus, and Muslim dissidents.
According to the All Pakistan Minorities Alliance (APMA), a human rights advocacy organization, this happened on January 30 during the protest in Lahore by more than 40,000 Islamic militants. The Islamists condemned any amendment to the blasphemy law, and fiercely opposed the liberation of Asia Bibi - a Christian woman sentenced to death on charges of blasphemy. The protesters also condemned the Pope and the United States.
Archbishop Lawrence Saldhana of Lahore and President of the conference of Catholic bishops of Pakistan, commented "The Islamic radicals have attacked the Pope, accusing him of interfering in the life of the Country. They burned his effigy and the Cross. For that we are very sorry. As faithful Christians this wounds us. We dissociate ourselves from every act of violence and we demand respect for all sacred symbols, whatever their religion."
Local sources note that the same Islamic radicals who defend the name and the honor of the Mohammed against every person or act considered "blasphemous" did not hesitate to insult and give offence to the symbols of the Christian religion, such as the cross of Jesus Christ and the Pope.
Further, the demonstration in Lahore confirmed the hatred towards the Minister for Minorities, Catholic, Shahbaz Bhatti. According to the All Pakistan Minorities Alliance, this is the latest open threat against Minister Bhatti, whose life is in serious danger, and who has been left completely on his own at the political level. Bhatti has remained unmoved but has called for prayers to stem the violent threats against his life. APMA stressed that security measures put in place to defend him are completely inadequate. The advocacy group also stressed the urgency with which protection should be afforded to the government official.
Archbishop Saldanha was quoted as saying, "Minister Bhatti is experiencing a very difficult time, targeted by extremists. On behalf of all Christians in Pakistan, we wish to express to the Minister our complete solidarity and gratitude for his social and political commitment to defending religious minorities." The Archbishop, recalling the Day of Prayer and fasting for peace, observed by Christians on January 30 said "The prayer, fasting, sharing and words of peace we exchanged on Sunday give us hope and strength, even if we are a small community which experiences suffering and difficulties." FIDES