BRUSSELS — The European Parliament adopted an Urgency Resolution on Pakistan, Thursday (April 14), by a large majority which condemned the Taliban’s Easter attack in Lahore. Terrorists killed 73 people and more than 300 were injured as a result of the bombings on Easter Sunday at a children’s playground. Christians were intentionally targeted for their beliefs. The Parliament also urged the Pakistani government to abolish its discriminatory ‘blasphemy’ laws and to tackle the social and economic exclusion of Christians and other religious minorities.
“We welcome the Parliament’s unequivocal statement, condemning the terrible attacks in Lahore. The EU [European Union] should use all means necessary to improve the situation for Pakistan’s Christians and other religious minorities who are threatened by terrorism and governmental oppression,” said Sophia Kuby, Director of EU Advocacy of ADF International.
“We must never accept the violation of a person’s inalienable rights to life and to freedom of religion and belief. The EU has to speak out on behalf of those increasingly persecuted simply for holding ‘the wrong belief’. The rising religious persecution in the world calls urgently for an adequate response from the EU,” continued Kuby.
Special Representative for Religion and Belief urgently needed
In the Resolution on Systematic Mass Murder by ISIS of 4 February 2016, which condemned the ongoing atrocities in the Middle East as genocide, the European Parliament called for the creation of a Special Representative for Religion and Belief. So far, the position has not been created.
“A permanent Special Representative would increase the EU’s capacity to act more strategically in favor of religious freedom and against religiously motivated violence and terror,” added Kuby. “This new high-level position would also help the EU to respond in a more effective way to increasing legal restrictions of freedom of religion in many parts of the world. Unfortunately, we are not aware of any follow-up on the resolution regarding the timely establishment of this much needed position.”
EU asks Pakistan to tackle terrorism
In its Urgency Resolution, the European Parliament directly addressed the problematic situation of the treatment of Christians and other religious minorities, not only at the hands of terrorists, but also under the Pakistani government.
It highlighted the case of Asia Bibi, a Christian mother and wife, who defended her faith against mocking co-workers and refused to convert to Islam in 2010. She was later tried under the so-called ‘blasphemy laws’ and sentenced to death. She is currently awaiting the Supreme Court’s decision on her appeal.
The Parliament emphasized that “when combating terrorism and religious extremism it is crucial to tackle its root causes by addressing poverty, ensuring religious tolerance and freedom of belief”. At the same time it expressed its “deep concern about the systemic and grave violations of freedom of religion and belief in Pakistan” and stressed “the importance of the respect of fundamental rights of all religious and ethnic minorities living in Pakistan for them to continue to live in dignity, equality and safety, and practice their religion in complete freedom without any kind of coercion, discrimination, intimidation or harassment.”