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Pakistan retains government office of religious minorities

CWN - February 14, 2011

In a victory for Pakistan’s beleaguered Christian community, the nation’s government decided not to eliminate the federal ministry for religious minorities amid a downsizing of federal agencies.

“With thanks to the grace of God and the prayers of the faithful I have been confirmed,” said Shahbaz Bhatti, a lay Catholic who heads the ministry. “The religious parties and extremist movements exerted strong pressure on the government to abolish the ministry for minorities, but the president of Pakistan and prime minister resisted and, for the common good of the nation, have chosen to maintain the ministry.”

“My new appointment will create some protests and resentment by many Islamic extremists,” he added. “But my struggle will continue, despite the difficulties and threats that I have received. My only aim is to defend fundamental rights, religious freedom and the life of Christians and other religious minorities.”

“The pressures exerted by the press and the international community have borne fruit,” said Father Mario Rodrigues, director of the Pontifical Mission Societies in Pakistan. “The minister is an important spokesperson for us. His commitment against the blasphemy law is clear and public, and has resulted in threats to take his life.”

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