Local Church Supports Religious Freedom

EmmanuelMany thanks to Fr. Jared from Christ the King Catholic Parish in Kingston, RI for the beautiful article he wrote about one of our Pakistani participants, Emmanuel Gulzar, who attended Sunday Mass with Paul and Kay during the Summer Institute. Fr. Jared was so moved by Emmanuel’s story that he wrote this impassioned article in the weekly bulletin:

Religious reedom is in fact a fundamental human right and I cannot fail to express my hope that it will be upheld throughout the Middle East and the entire world.” – Pope Francis, May 24, 2014

Last week, the Center for Nonviolence & Peace Studies hosted the annual URI International Nonviolence Summer Institute here on campus. One of the Pakistani guests, Emmanuel Gulzar, who is the president and founder of the Minority Coverage Foundation, introduced himself to me and we had the opportunity to talk about the plight of Christians in Pakistan.

Mr. Gulzar and the members of the MCF have made much progress in providing food, education, and medical support for many of our brothers and sisters in Pakistan who are suffering from poverty and, in many cases, religious persecution. The group established the National Peace Community for Interfaith and Harmony in Pakistan, whose vision is to “combine all the minorities on one platform where all human beings can practice their faith without any fear and accepting each other’s customs and traditions.”

At the end of our 20-minute conversation, Mr. Gulzar began crying and walked away in tears, having told me the story about a woman who was harassed and assaulted while she was walking down the street, minder her own business. Her only “offense” was that she was known for being “one of the Christians.”

She and many others like her, are still subjected to this persecution. We see the stories in headlines, but Mr. Gulzar and his neighbors see them unfold on their streets: people suffering from religious persecution, harassment, assault, and in many cases, death. I was shown a picture of one man who was beaten to death while in police custody – an event that triggered public demonstrations, but no criminal investigation.

The Minority Coverage Foundation is also actively working for the release of a Pakistani Christian woman who was convicted of blasphemy by a Pakistani court, receiving a sentence of death by hanging. I’m reminded of what Pope Francis said last year about religious persecution: “Today’s world is sprinkled with martyrs: men and women who are put behind bars and killed just because they are Christian. And there’s more of them today than there were in the early days of Christianity.”

The Christians of Pakistan persevere and persist, despite the constant danger that surrounds them. Their children are abducted; their churches, houses and graveyards are demolished; their homes are looted 0 and the authorities turn a blind eye. In many cases, these folks are forced to become unrecognized and unregistered refugees in their own homeland. They don’t have much, but they have faith, and they have each other, and that allows them to lift themselves spiritually from poverty and apathy into the life and love of God.

Learn more about the mission and ministry of the Minority Coverage Foundation at mincof.org – and pray for peace, freedom, justice, and equality in Pakistan and everywhere!

– Fr. Jared, Pastor of Christ the King Catholic Parish, Kingston, RI