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ICC Note: Pakistan’s Cardinal-designate, Joseph Coutts, spoke out against the “gradual erosion” of religious freedom and the abuse of the country’s blasphemy laws at an event on religious freedom. On June 28, Coutts will be made into Pakistan’s first Cardinal since 1994. Christians in Pakistan face intense persecution and widespread discrimination because of the non-Muslim identity. This has led Open Doors USA to rank Pakistan the fifth most difficult country for Christians in the world.

06/26/2018 Pakistan (National Catholic Reporter) – A Pakistani archbishop has warned about the “gradual erosion” of religious freedom in his country, saying the nation’s caretaker government has not been able to control vigilantism undertaken by religious extremists.

Karachi Cardinal-designate Joseph Coutts, who will become Pakistan’s first cardinal in 24 years during a Vatican ceremony June 28, said a law in his Muslim-majority country meant to prevent blasphemy against Islam is “being very easily misused.”

“It’s causing a lot of problems right now,” said Coutts, speaking at June 25 event on religious freedom co-hosted by the U.S. embassy to the Holy See, Aid to the Church in Need, and the Sant’Egidio Community. “People are being killed … just because of an accusation.”

“Our government is not strong enough to control the kind of extremism that has developed in the country,” he said. “It is enough to accuse someone of blasphemy … and you’re finished.”

Coutts, who has led the Catholic community in Pakistan’s largest city since 2012, is one of 14 prelates Francis has chosen to elevate to cardinal this week. Pakistan’s last cardinal was Joseph Cordeiro, one of Coutts’ predecessors in Karachi, who died in 1994.

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