Millennium Post

US urges Pakistan to treat its minority community better

US urges Pakistan to treat its minority community better
The US has asked Pakistan to end ‘mistreatment’ of minorities and reform its controversial blasphemy law which has ‘fueled acts of violence and intimidation’, days after a mentally-challenged Christian girl charged under it was granted bail by a court in Islamabad.

‘In Pakistan, we welcome the release of the young Christian girl charged with blasphemy, and we welcome the steps Islamabad has taken to recognise religious minorities and promote national harmony.

‘Still, we continue to call on Pakistan to end the mistreatment of minorities and reform blasphemy laws,’ US Deputy National Security Advisor, Denis McDonough said in his address to the international religious freedom meet at the US Conference of Catholic Bishops.

His comments came five days after 14-year-old Rimsha Masih, who was falsely accused of blasphemy, was granted bail by a Pakistani court, a case that sparked international concern.

In his major speech on religious freedon, McDonough said: ‘In Pakistan, blasphemy laws and failures or delays in addressing religious hostility has fueled acts of violence and intimidation and emboldened violent extremists.’

Turning to China, McDonough said government policies in Tibetan areas threaten the distinct religious, cultural and linguistic identity of the Tibetan people, creating tensions and contributing to a situation where dozens of desperate Tibetans have resorted to self-immolation.

He charged that China continues to outlaw and imprison the worshippers of religious and spiritual groups, including unregistered Christian churches and Tibetan Buddhists.

‘In addition to the President's personal advocacy and engagement that I've already mentioned, the need for China to uphold the freedom of religion is a key element at other levels of our engagement with China,’ he said.  ‘At our annual Human Rights Dialogue with China, for example, religious freedom has been one of the main agenda items. And we brought Chinese officials to meet with Cardinal McCarrick and Catholic Charities to see how religious organisations provide critical social services,’ McDonough said  Going forward, the US will continue to urge China to uphold universal rights, including freedom of religion, as a ‘vital ingredient of a stable and prosperous society,’ the White House official said.

On Myanmar, he said: ‘In Burma, preferential treatment for Buddhists and prejudice against ethnic South Asians, particularly ethnic Rohingya Muslims, fuels tensions between the Buddhist majority and Christian and Muslim minorities.’

‘Put simply, religious pluralism, tolerance and freedom can help promote stability, security, development and democratic progress. And the lack of religious freedom is itself destabilising,’ he said.

McDonough noted that Pope Benedict observed in his message for last year's World Day of Peace, the absence of religious freedom ‘is a threat to security and peace, and an obstacle to the achievement of authentic and integral human development.’

US President Barack Obama, the White House official said, has been a fierce advocate for the cause of religious freedom around the world - in public and in private.


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