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AsiaNews (02/24/06) – “Don’t make us scapegoats for Western mistakes,” said Christian leaders—two Catholic bishops and seven Protestant religious leaders—in a meeting with Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz on Wednesday. They also asked him “for greater justice and less discrimination in society”.

Demonstrations against the publication of the Muhammad cartoons considered by an overwhelming majority of Muslims as blasphemous have rocked Pakistan and local Christians and their property have had to bear the brunt of them. This has caused widespread fear and insecurity among them.

“They received us very cordially,” Archbishop Saldanha told AsiaNews, “and expressed their apologies and regrets for the attacks and destruction of Christian Churches and buildings.”

Catholics and Protestants again firmly “condemned the offensive cartoons but also called for an end to irresponsible mob violence” that followed.

In a joint letter issued today, Christian leaders “assured the faithful that they are close to all Christians in the present tense and difficult situation in country.”

“No doubt,” the letter said, “the violent attacks and desecration of churches in Sangla Hill and Sukkur and other incidents have greatly shocked the faithful and made them feel insecure and fearful. [But] the Prime Minister readily [. . .] agreed to the removal of all banners, stickers and speeches in mosques that incite hatred and violence against non-Muslims.”

“The government wants to promote inter-faith harmony and would provide full security and protection to the lives and properties of minorities,” the letter added.

“One positive outcome of all these disturbances has been closer collaboration between Catholics and Protestants. We welcome this genuine feeling of Christian fellowship and ecumenical solidarity. In unity lies our strength.”