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Demonstration in Favour of Christian Detainees on Hunger Strike

ICC Note: Support for Christian prisoners is growing in Pakistan as other groups protest their treatment.

by Qaiser Felix

3/26/07 Pakistan (AsiaNews) – Various human rights and minority rights groups organised a demonstration in favour of Christian inmates detained in Rawalpindi ’s Adiala District Jail where prisoners have gone a hunger strike to protest against the decision by prison authorities to prevent them from conducting their religious rites and to tear down a church inside the prison compound.

The show of solidarity took place last Thursday in front of the Lahore Press Club. Activists from the Justice and Peace Commission, the Lahore Social From, the Young Christian Workers organisation, and the Labour Party took part in the show of solidarity.

According to the Protestant NGO ‘ Sharing Life Ministry Pakistan ,’ detainees have been mistreated when they asked to hold their religious functions.

“It is not the first time that jail management maltreated Christian prisoners. It is intolerable that Christians are denied the right to celebrate their rituals on holy days,” said the NGO’s coordinator. “It is cruel for prison authorities to do so. The Pakistani government should protect the religious rights of Christian prisoners who have the same rights as any other Pakistani.”

Patras Ghani, deputy chairman of the Pakistan Christian National Party, expressed his solidarity to the detainees. In a press release he said that “ Pakistan ’s Christian community should be united on these shared principles. This type of persecution shows how the government views the country’s minorities.”

In their own press communiqué the human and minority rights groups involved in the Lahore protest said that Christian detainees in the Adiala prison went on a hunger strike Wednesday of last week to protest against the prison administration’s systematic discrimination and its violation of their religious rights as well as its decision to tear the church that was part of the prison compound.

Press reports suggest that the protest action involved more than 300 prisoners, including many who belonged to non Christian minorities.