Anti-Christian Bias Feared Rising in Pakistan

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LAHORE, Pakistan, JULY 5, 2004 (Zenit.org).- Muslim anger over the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq is leading to more discrimination against Christians in Pakistan, an archbishop warns.



"There is a lot of anger among Muslims here because of the war in Iraq," said Archbishop Lawrence Saldanha of Lahore, during a recent visit to the Germany-based group Aid to the Church in Need.

"The general discrimination against Christians has also become stronger since the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq," he said.

Pakistan has about 150 million inhabitants, 97% of whom are Muslims and 1% Christians. About 1.2 million are Catholics.

Archbishop Saldanha described the country's Catholic community as "small, but very active. Our faithful come from the lower class of Pakistani society. Most of them are poor and even illiterate. … That is why they are looked down upon."

Hence, education is a priority for the Church in Pakistan. "We have 111 Catholic schools in the Lahore Archdiocese. A good number of the students are Muslims," Archbishop Saldanha said.

He added: "For the faith of our people, pilgrimages are very important. In my archdiocese, there is the Marian shrine in Maryamabad. The annual pilgrimage in September there attracts not only Catholics, but Muslims as well."