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US bishops weigh in on Afghanistan transition, Pakistani religious freedom

Catholic World News - April 08, 2011

Bishop Howard Hubbard of Albany, chairman of the Committee on International Justice and Peace of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, has urged National Security Advisor Thomas Donilon to make religious freedom in Pakistan a “major priority.”

“We remain deeply concerned about religious freedom in Pakistan and urge it be a major priority in US policy,” Bishop Hubbard said in his April 6 letter. “The failure to protect the religious freedom of all, especially minorities, and to build a pluralistic tolerant society emboldens fundamentalist terror groups. The assassination of the Pakistani Minister of Minority Affairs Shahbaz Bhatti, the only Christian in the Cabinet, is a grim reminder of this threat. We hope the recent appointment of Paul Bhatti as Special Advisor for Religious Minorities will mean his brother’s legacy of defending minority rights will continue.”

Bishop Hubbard devoted most of his letter to the upcoming transition in Afghanistan. Beginning in July, NATO forces will gradually transfer responsibility for security to Afghan authorities, with complete NATO troop withdrawal planned for 2014.

“A responsible transition will require a strengthened civilian commitment by the United States and the international community to improve citizen participation, civil society capacity, accountability and good stewardship to promote development and good governance,” he said. “With so much at stake during this transition, we assure you of our continued prayers.”

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