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Charity to march in London for Pakistan

Protesters want pressure put on Lahore to amend blasphemy laws and protect minorities

Mike MacLachlan, London
United Kingdom

June 20, 2011

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Christians and non-Christians plan to march through London in protest against Pakistan’s blasphemy laws. The protesters will march on July 2 from the Pakistan Embassy in Lowndes Square to 10 Downing Street, the prime minister’s residence. Petitions will be handed in at both the embassy and No 10, where the British government will be asked to put pressure on Pakistan to amend the laws and ensure the rights of religious minorities are protected. There will be a prayer service outside the embassy and speeches from, among others, Dr Michael Nazir Ali, a retired Church of England bishop who was born in Pakistan. The blasphemy laws have been blamed for as many as 14 attacks on Christians in Pakistan over the past two months, according to Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), a Catholic charity involved in the protest march. The attacks are carried out by people taking the law into their own hands and accusing minorities of blasphemy, says ACN. “Blasphemy for us is just a word,” said Neville Kyrke-Smith, the UK director of  ACN. “For Christians and all people in Pakistan the accusation of blasphemy can lead to death." ACN decided to participate in the march after receiving backing from senior Catholic bishops in Pakistan, said John Pontifex, ACN UK’s head of press and information. But he added: “What is important – especially for the Church in Pakistan – is that this shouldn’t be seen as just a Christian issue. Everyone is affected.” END

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