Hundreds of Pakistani Catholics recently lost their homes and livelihood in a widespread arson attack in the predominantly Catholic neighborhood of Joseph Colony, Lahore. In response to the attack, Rohan Emmanuel, a Pakistan writer, wrote in The Express Tribune of the Vatican’s unfortunate silence on the plight of Pakistani Catholics and other Christian communities in Pakistan. He notes that throughout history, the pope “has had little to no words of reassurance or condemnation for the Christian population here [Pakistan].” “Not a word has been uttered [by the Vatican] to relieve the Christians of their trauma – not a word has been said to condemn these grotesque incidents.”
After speaking to many Catholics and other Christians from local communities, Emmanuel drew the conclusion that “after all that they [Pakistani Christians] have been through and with their calls for help gone unheard, indignation has replaced hope.” He continues: “There is no hope attached to the selection fo the pope as they have never directly benefited from them. Hopes are pinned only when you believe that someone will hear or address the concerns you may have had and in this case, the pope has failed the Christians of Pakistan – we seem not to matter – not to our government and not to our own pope.”
Time is ripe for Pope Francis I to make a strong statement regarding the persecuted Catholic community in Pakistan and the lackluster response of the Pakistani government to the latest attack in Joseph Colony. Doing so can help strengthen the psyche and resilience of Pakistani Catholics and help the Vatican form stronger bonds with their periphery communities, which are often the most neglected and vulnerable.
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