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Call for prayer rooms for Christian prisoners in Pakistan

(ANS) 6/1/2006 — The Coordinator of Sharing Life Ministry Pakistan (SLMP), Mr. Sohail Johnson, has moved forward in an application for construction of prayer rooms for Christian inmates in Punjab jails.

The Pakistan Christian Post has published a letter that Mr. Johnson wrote to the Home Secretary of Punjab Province in which he cited the problems being faced by Pakistani Christian inmates in Punjab jails.

The letter read: “In [the] central jail [in] Gujranwala , there is a big mosque situated in which about 2000 Muslim prisoners can offer prayer easily. Loud speakers are displayed so that Muslim prisoners listen the voice of ‘Azan’ (call for prayer); moreover rooms and small mosques are fixed in five different blocks for worship for Muslim prisoners. Just like it in [the] Faisalabad District Jail, there is a big mosque in the circle of the jail for the congregational prayer of the Muslim prisoners.”

The letter maintained: “In [the] district jail [in] Lahore there are more than 17 mosques and two ‘Amam Bargahs’ (the place of worship for a Muslim sect) in [which] about all mosques the loud speakers are fixed…”

Mr. Johnson went on to say in his letter : “There is only one small prayer room in the central jail [in] Lahore out of all the jails of [the] province [of] Punjab, and in Faisalabad there is a small plot fixed for Christian prisoners for prayer. Moreover a small store is given to Christian prisoners for prayer in [the] District Jail — Rawalpindi Adiala.”

The letter added: “While in rest of 28 jails there is no place fixed where Christian prisoners could offer their prayer according to their faith respectfully. In Christianity there is an essential part of worship to sing praise songs by playing musical instruments. Christian prisoners are allowed to worship with playing musical instruments only in Central Jail Lahore out of 31 jails of [the] province [of] Punjab . Christian prisoners are detained separately in deferent cells and blocks and cannot offer prayer and worships together.”

“…Usually Christian prisoners are compelled to worship at the stores, courtyards of the jails and hospitals, or in the different cells separately. Sometimes Christian prisoners offer their prayers at the wards of hospital, which are fixed for addicted prisoners; where the addicted prisoners disturb the atmosphere of worship by using filthy language and passing dirty sentences.

“Christian prisoners cannot pray in rainy, hot and cold days due to unavailability of prayer rooms and it causes them to involve in useless activities, which gives bitter results.”

Most of the time, they are not allowed to worship according to their faith by playing musical instruments, which ceases their religious freedom,” the letter said.

The SLMP coordinator in his letter added: “Being a citizen of Pakistan , [the] Christian Community also has [the] right to change and correct their lives. Therefore, [a] Prayer Room is [a] basic and essential need, where Christian prisoners can gather daily and think about their lives before God and can change their lives positively.

“Application here by seeks your kind order to build Prayer Rooms for Christian prisoners in all the Jails [in the] province [of] Punjab , so that, Christian prisoners can be released from inferiority complex and can be useful part of Pakistani society,” the letter concludes.