Govt to form council for addressing Christian issues, Ashrafi says

LAHORE: Prime Minister’s Special Representative on Religious Harmony Hafiz Tahir Mehmood Ashrafi on Monday said the government has decided to form a high-level council comprising representatives of the Christian clergy and senior officials to address issues facing the minority community.
Addressing a reception hosted in his honour by National Council of Churches in Pakistan President Bishop Azad Marshall at a local hotel here, Ashrafi said that the services of the Christian community in various sectors, particularly in health and education, were invaluable and the government would ensure that all challenges facing the community are resolved on priority basis.
“We have decided to form a council with representation of the church leadership which will meet once every month to identify the issues and discuss their solutions,” he said. He added that the government had already initiated investigations into cases of alleged forced conversion and marriages of minor girls belonging to the Christian community.
Ashrafi said that all non-Muslim Pakistanis had equal rights as citizens of this country and no person would be allowed to undermine interfaith harmony in the name of Islam. “We will stand with you through thick and thin and I assure you that no one would be allowed to impose their faith on you,” he said.
Speaking on the occasion, Bishop Azad lauded Ashrafi’s efforts for the non-Muslim communities and expressed the hope that he would use his office to effectively address the issues facing the Christian community.
“You have proven time and again that you are a true friend of the minorities and we hope to see positive outcomes for our people through your office,” he said. He added that the Christian community hoped that the government would take concrete steps to curb forced conversion and marriages of minor girls.
The bishop also appealed to his community members to exercise caution while using social media, saying that sometimes people unintentionally share religiously offensive posts which causes tension between the communities and increases risk of violence.

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