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Pakistani bishop leads protest following 2nd Muslim attack, decries ‘religious cleansing’

Catholic World News - August 04, 2009

Following an August 1 attack by 800 Muslims on Christians in the northeastern Pakistani city of Gojra, Bishop Joseph Coutts of Faisalabad led a protest against government tolerance of anti-Christian violence. Bishop Coutts charged that “a banned Islamic group which wants to ‘purify’ Pakistan by making it a strictly Islamic, theocratic state” wants non-Muslims to “either convert to Islam or leave the place … They want a sort of religious cleansing.”

The attack in Gorja, which saw seven Catholics burned alive-- six from the same family-- elicited Pope Benedict’s condemnation and followed a July 30 attack in which the Christian village of Korian was destroyed.

Surviving family members of the victims also protested. Placing the coffins on the railroad tracks, they disrupted traffic for four hours.

Pakistan’s leading prelate, Archbishop Lawrence John Saldanha of Lahore, directed that the nation’s Catholic schools and colleges be closed for three days of mourning. “This is not a solitary incident but a phenomenon that has been there for quite some time,” he said in a joint statement issued with the National Commission for Justice and Peace. Archbishop Saldanha also called upon “the Christians of the entire world for their solidarity and prayers. Do not leave us alone; remain close to us in your hearts and minds. Now all we can do is stay united and hope the situation will improve.”

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