Citing cases where even children have been victims of a misused blasphemy law, the World Council of Churches (WCC) said it will hold an international public hearing on the plight of religious minorities in Pakistan.
The hearing is scheduled for Sept. 17-19 at the WCC’s headquarters, the Ecumenical Centre in Geneva, according to a WCC news release. It will be held in conjunction with the 21st session of the United Nations Human Rights Council, also in Geneva.
Organized by the WCC Commission of the Churches on International Affairs (CCIA), the event continues the WCC’s efforts to support religious minorities in Pakistan who are victimized by the blasphemy law, which criminalizes criticism of Islam.
The blasphemy cases have resulted in death penalties and mob-instigated violence since the definition of the law was inserted into the Pakistan Penal Code. Amendments to the law were made by military ruler General Zia-ul-Haq in the 1980s. The blasphemy law has often been criticized as vague and arbitrary, the WCC said.
The event will engage the international community, representatives of religious minorities and civil society organizations in Pakistan, specialized ministries, U.N. officials and representatives of international organizations working on the rights of religious minority communities in Pakistan.
“The public hearing aims to heighten discussions at international levels on the deteriorating situation of the human rights of minorities in Pakistan and misuse of blasphemy law, through which the death sentence was made mandatory for blaspheming. We hope to strengthen initiatives that have greater impact on public and governments by involving ecumenical advocacy for minorities in the country,” said Mathews George Chunakara, director of CCIA.
“The international hearing will also create a platform to address the concerns of persecuted religious minorities to make their voices heard in the international arena and particularly at the United Nations Human Rights Council,” he added.