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Responding to Terrorist Attack on Islamabad Church: Reform Jewish Leader Urges House International Relations Committee to Pass Resolution on Religious Persecution in Pakistan

Saperstein: "Jews have too often been the victims of religious persecution over the centuries, precisely because, in the face of the oppression and degradations visited on us, good people stood by silently and let it happen. These bitter experiences obligate us to speak up and take action against the persecution of other."

Contact:Alexis Rice or Erin Glazer 202-387-2800

WASHINGTON, March 19, 2002 - In response to the recent terrorist attack on a Protestant Church in Islamabad, Pakistan, Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, urged House International Relations Committee leaders to pass the religious persecution resolution introduced by Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (H. Res. 348). This resolution calls for President Pervez Musharraf to repeal Pakistan’s Blasphemy Law as well as other discriminatory legal elements that continue to foster an atmosphere of intolerance and religious persecution. The full text of the letter sent to Representative Henry Hyde, Chairman of the House International Relations Committee and Representative Tom Lantos, Ranking Democratic Member of the House International Relations Committee follows:


On behalf of the 900 synagogues of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, encompassing over 1.5 million people across North America, I urge you to pass the resolution introduced by Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (H. Res. 348) which calls on President Pervez Musharraf to repeal Pakistan’s Blasphemy Law as well as other discriminatory legal elements which continue to foster an atmosphere of intolerance and religious persecution.

The March 17 terrorist attack on a Protestant church in Islamabad is yet another tragic reminder of the continuing efforts by extremists to try to destabilize President Musharraf’s government and to intensify the notion that intolerance and religious hatred is the desired state of affairs in Pakistan. Pakistani Christians face tremendous persecution under Pakistan’s Blasphemy Law, which is applied arbitrarily and can carry the death penalty. Church of Pakistan Bishop Alexander John Malik has described the Blasphemy Law as a “license to harass, enslave, and eliminate minorities and legalize religious persecution.” We must not allow this to continue.

Jews have too often been victims of religious persecution over the centuries, precisely because, in the face of the oppression and degradations visited on us, good people stood by silently and let it happen. And we Jews have, under the lash of brutal religious intolerance, been forced to flee from land to land, seeking asylum and safety only to find the doors of refuge closed to us. These bitter experiences with religious persecution obligate us to speak up and take action against the persecution of others.

H. Res. 348 calls on President Musharraf to repeal the Blasphemy Law and other religiously oppressive laws and expresses the sense of the House of Representatives that all Pakistani citizens be allowed to freely profess and practice religion or belief. We urge its prompt consideration.

Sincerely,
/s/
Rabbi David Saperstein

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The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (UAHC) , whose over 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews , and the Central Conference of American Rabbis(CCAR) whose membership includes over 1800 Reform rabbis .



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