Christians in Wales are peacefully protesting the ongoing violence in Pakistan as they fear for the safety of their loved ones overseas.
Riots broke out in Jaranwala following allegations of blasphemy. Two Christian brothers stand accused of burning the Koran after their names, addresses, and ID numbers were found inside the desecrated holy book.
It led to imams publicly encouraging attacks on Christians. Thousands of Christians have been forced to flee their homes while churches have been razed to the ground.
In Wales, Rakhel Smith is worried about the safety of six of her relatives, still in Pakistan, who she says have been arrested. She says they’ve been jailed for crimes they did not commit. While crying, she told protesters gathered in Cardiff Bay: “It is very sad, I am heartbroken. I can’t get a hold of my family, and I’m worried. “People have been killed, houses burned. People are running for their lives, having to hide in fields. I hope that by protesting, the government in Pakistan will get the blasphemy law under control and not use it for ‘nothing’.”
The protest was organized by Reverend Irfan John, from the Methodist Church in Wales, who fled Pakistan almost 20 years ago out of fear of persecution because of his Christian beliefs.
Pakistan’s blasphemy laws are notoriously strict. Those found to have insulted the prophet Muhammad or the Islamic faith, can face a death penalty – but angry mobs often reach those accused long before the police. Experts have repeatedly warned of the misuse of blasphemy laws, saying groups often make allegations to gain revenge – and seem to require very little proof of an offense being committed.