A leading Catholic bishop has made an impassioned plea calling on world powers to come together and demand that the Pakistan authorities act to protect the lives of persecuted minority faith groups under increasing threat from flagrant misuse of the country’s notorious blasphemy laws.

Bishop Samson Shukardin, President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Pakistan, said that, unless laws are passed making it an offence to fabricate allegations of blasphemy, Christians and other beleaguered minorities will never feel safe in their own country.

The bishop’s comments coincide with news on Monday 3 June that Nazir Gill Masih, a Christian man from Sargodha in his 70s, had died in hospital 10 days after being attacked by a mob acting on dubious blasphemy claims made against him. 

Bishop Shukardin said such incidents would only increase unless the Pakistan authorities clamp down on people falsifying accusations and stop mobs taking matters into their own hands by terrorising victims, their families and neighbours. 

In an interview with ACN, Bishop Shukardin said: “It is very important that legislation is introduced whereby those found to have wrongly accused people of blasphemy are given sentences including jail terms.”

The bishop, who is chairman of the Catholic or National Commission for Justice and Peace, the Church’s advocacy arm, accused the Pakistan authorities of failing to bring justice for the victims of last August’s wave of violence against Christians in the Punjab’s Jaranwala district, an incident also triggered by a spurious blasphemy allegation.

Bishop Shukardin warned that this and other examples of alleged government inaction has only emboldened more people to weaponise the controversial laws against innocent minorities. 

He added: “Persecution is getting worse. It is an alarming situation.  We need to bring justice and safety for our minorities and indeed all those who are treated badly because of their religion or anything that is not in accordance with human dignity.” Saying that only foreign pressure would force Pakistan to act, he stated: “It needs pressure to come from abroad – government to government.”