Dr Olav Fykse Tveit expressed his concern about the plight of Christians and other minorities like Hindus and Sikhs during a recent visit to Pakistan.
“The Pakistani government should not turn a blind eye to the culture of violence perpetrated through the use and abuse of the blasphemy laws, which intensify communal hatred, intolerance and persecution that can hit anybody in the country, and particularly the religious minorities,” he said.
During his three-day visit, Dr Tveit heard from church leaders and civic organisations that Christians are living in “an atmosphere of insecurity”.
“The existences of Christians have never been threatened as it is today, and the situation has gone worse in the past years,” he was told.
The WCC says that Christians are being “affected severely” by the “discriminatory” blasphemy laws, which criminalise blaspheming against the Koran or the Prophet Muhammad.
Human rights groups say that the laws are being misused to settle personal scores, seize land or property from Christians, or justify attacks on them.
Those who are accused of blasphemy face being killed by people taking the law into their own hands, or imprisoned or sentenced to death by the state. Even those who are cleared of all charges usually have to go into hiding because of the threat to their lives.
Dr Tveit recalled the vision for a fair society of the country’s founder, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, as he called upon the Pakistani government to ensure protection to every citizen, including religious minorities.
He was accompanied in Pakistan by the director of the WCC Commission of the Churches on International Affairs, Dr Matthews George Chunakara, who said the solidarity visit was “timely”.
“The Christian minorities are fearful of the violence which is a threat to the interfaith harmony and peaceful coexistence,” said Dr Chunakara.