Protesters say they are being denied right to go on pilgrimage
God’s Peoples Fellowship of Pakistan activists protest outside the Pakistan Press Club on Sunday (Credit: ucanews.com)
A Pakistani Christian group called on their government Sunday to allow Christians to go on pilgrimage to religious sites in Israel.
There are no formal diplomatic ties between the two countries and Pakistan forbids its citizens from going to the Holy Land.
All Pakistani passports state, “This passport is valid for all countries of the world except Israel”.
Under Israeli law, Pakistan is a designated an enemy state and Israeli citizens may not visit there without a special permit issued by the Israeli Interior Ministry.
God’s Peoples Fellowship of Pakistan (GPFP), a Karachi-based Christian organization, which seeks diplomatic ties with Israel, staged a protest on Sunday outside the Karachi press club to demand the lifting of the travel ban on Christian Pakistanis to Israel.
“People of different religions particularly Sikhs of India come to Pakistan every year to perform their religious obligations despite the fact the two countries have fought three wars,” Ashraf P Butt, Secretary-General of the GPFP, said.
“Since Pakistan doesn’t recognize the state of Israel and does not maintain any diplomatic ties, the Christian community in Pakistan has been deprived of their legitimate religious rights,” he told ucanews.com.
“In light of the Bilateral Protocol Agreement signed between India and Pakistan in 1974, granting permission to visit religious shrines and sites, the GPFP also demands the same arrangements for Christians,” he said.
He criticized the Supreme Court for dismissing a GPFP petition seeking a lifting of the ban out of hand.
“We deem Bethlehem, Jerusalem, the holy city of King David, the Skull place where Jesus Christ was crucified, Nazareth, Galilee and other such places sacred,” Butt said.
Pervaiz Khan, a pastor, said Christians are only asking for the rights to visit holy places in Israel.
“When Muslims can freely go to Mecca and Medina for pilgrimage, why can’t we exercise our religious obligations guaranteed by the constitution of Pakistan,” he said.
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