Frontpage Interview’s guest today is Bishop Pervaiz Joseph, the Chairman of Charismatic Gospel Ministries located in Lahore, Pakistan. He also leads the Pastors’ Care Ministry and has been working on interfaith harmony and peace promotion for the last seven years. Due to certain recent developments, he had to leave his house and everything he owned. He is now in a hiding place with his family.
FP: Bishop Joseph, welcome to Frontpage Interview. I am very sorry about the horrible circumstances you and your family now find yourselves. Please know that you are in the hearts, minds and prayers of everyone here.
Let’s begin with your background and what led you and your family now having to hide in fear for your lives.
Joseph: Thank you Jamie.
This is how my persecution began: In a meeting on peace promotion and interfaith harmony with Sunni Tehreek in Lahore, on October 12, 2011, the misuse of Pakistan’s blasphemy law was also discussed. Apparently, this was not appreciated by Islamic leaders Rana Tahir Advocate, Nasreen Akhtar Advocate, Mohammad Sher Afghan and Moulana Mukhtar Ahmad Qadri.
The Muslim religious leaders, who were also working with me while I was discussing the misuse of blasphemy law, during an exchange of communications, claimed that I used derogatory remarks against the Muslim Holy Prophet Mohamed.
The International Peace Council for Interfaith Harmony leader Rana Tahir Rahmat, and Mulana Mukhtar Ahmad Qadri Zei, the Muslim leader of Ahlae Sunat wa Al Jamat( Suni Terreek) and other militant groups, started blackmailing and harassing me for carrying out Evangelism through Interfaith Harmony and Peace Promotion by uplifting the voice of the Christian community rights in Pakistan.
Rana Tahir Rahmat and his group then became angry and planned to destroy and kill me by accusing me of blasphemy. Advocate Nasreen Akhtar used her emotions and started propagating against me among a Muslim militants’ group located at 85 Mall Road, Lahore, Pakistan; and Rana Tahir Rehmat gave life threats to my wife through phone calls.
Islamic leaders announced the blasphemy case to be filed against me, and attacked my house twice along with the heavily armed Muslim Militants.
The Islamic militants even visited Bishop Council’s Chairman and said that they will cut me and my family into pieces and will distribute among all the clergymen working in United Bishop’s Council.
In Pakistan, when someone is condemned by the Blasphemy Law, the militants do not wait for the court to take action; they decide themselves whether they want to kill the person or not. And the fear of the recently murdered Federal Minister Shahbaz Bhatti and Governor Salman Taseer and the burnt Christian colonies was also there. The Christian Leadership of Pakistan also warned me of the upcoming threats and discrimination of the Muslim militants on me and my family.
Thank God none of my family members was in the house when it was attacked by the heavily armed militants. They persecuted me in many different ways. The situation was so strange and unbearable, and it was getting worse day by day so it caused me and my family to go into hiding.
FP: Tell us about the “misuse” of Pakistan’s blasphemy law. What do you mean “misuse.” Is there an actual legitimate way to “use” it? Or you just mean its oppressive and barbaric nature in general. Whatever the case, tell us about how it inflicts horror in Pakistan.
Joseph: Misuse of Pakistan’s Blasphemy Law is that Muslim militants falsely accuse innocent Christians in charge of 295 C(Pakistan’s Blasphemy Law) sometimes to take revenge; to occupy their land/ property; to show that they are more powerful; to earn more money; to become popular among the native people; and to degrade and discriminate minorities.
Before the official authorities take any action, the militants burn or murder those whom they falsely accuse. There is a legitimate way in Pakistan to use blasphemy law and it is same as the other laws; first complainant should file a case, then the officials should inquire deeply, then the court should decide if the blame on the victim is true or the victim has been falsely accused. But blasphemy law is now mainly used to degrade and discriminate the Christian community of Pakistan.
FP: Tell us specifically about how the Muslim individuals and groupsblackmailed and harassed you.
Joseph: Muslim individuals including Advocate Nasreen Akhtar went in an office located on 85 Mall Rd among Muslim extremists and starting crying and said that Bishop Pervaiz Joseph had come to his house and used derogatory remarks against the Prophet Mohammad. By listening to this, the militants group became very anxious and immediately my wife started receiving phone calls from Rana Tahir Rehmat, who made threats on my wife’s life and the militant group twice attacked our house.
Some Muslim extremists made phone calls to me and demanded a big amount of money, but I thought if I give them money I will be proved as guilty and I won’t be able to do any work in Pakistan. They even made threatening phone calls against me to my colleague clergymen in the United Bishop’s Council of Pakistan. They made visits to the Bishop’s Council finding me there; they said they would cut me into pieces and distribute my body parts among the Christian clergymen. Then I was called by one of the Bishops. He warned me of the situation. And many others warned me that militants wanted to burn and kill me and my family. All this harassment and blackmail caused me to go into hiding. I went into hiding because I could not make any public appearance or do ministry. Neither did my children have the freedom to go out anywhere.
FP: Why exactly did this happen in your view? Did you expect it? Were you naïve perhaps in terms of speaking a certain way in front of the Muslims? Or they have completely made everything up and you never really said anything?
Joseph: I have been working on Peace Promotion and Christian Rights in Pakistan and the Muslim militants of Pakistan do not want any Christian figure to come up and raise the voice of the Christian community in Pakistan, and that’s the reason why they assassinated Shahbaz Bhatti and why they are persecuting Christians of Pakistan in public.
Yes. I knew this will happen to me one day but we just cannot sit and wait till Muslim extremists burn and destroy the whole Christian Community. I spoke with wisdom in front of Muslims and I never used any derogatory remarks against their prophet because we as Christians are taught to respect other religions.
This whole plan of saying that I used derogatory remarks against Muhammad was a propaganda to encourage Muslim extremists against me, so that I cannot raise the voice of the Christian Community in Pakistan.
FP: What in your view is the significance in terms of this terrible misfortune that has befallen you and your family?
Joseph: After our persecution, me and my family are extremely disturbed with all what we have gone through. We left our country and everything behind, we are not able to associate with anyone in Pakistan because of the fear of Muslim extremists. We are hoping to start up again and come out of this hiding-place. Now we want to live openly and start working for Christ again.
FP: Bishop Joseph, thank you for joining Frontpage Interview.
Thank you for your courage and fight for the truth, and battle on behalf of the Christian community in Pakistan. You are in our thoughts and prayers and we wish you and your family perseverance and safety.