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President of Pakistan makes pledge

14 March 2014

AP

Catalyst:  Christian women visit a house destroyed by a mob in Gojra, in August, 2009

Catalyst:  Christian women visit a house destroyed by a mob in Gojra, in August, 2009

TWO church leaders from West Yorkshire have secured a pledge from the President of Pakistan, Mamnoon Hussain, to protect and uphold the rights and privileges of minority-faith communities.

The Bishop of Pontefract, the Rt Revd Tony Robinson, and a Pakistan-born Christian and Lay Canon at Wakefield Cathedral, Yaqub Masih, were in Pakistan last week to attend the start of the construction of a water-purification plant funded by interfaith work in West Yorkshire.

An unexpected invitation to meet President Hussain, however, ensured that their work to improve community relations secured national media coverage.

Bishop Robinson said: "It was quite amazing, really. He had been told about us, and was persuaded he should see us. As a result, we were on every TV channel, and in every paper talking about minorities. We had an opportunity to say something which we would not have got. I hadn't imagined it would blossom into such a big event."

Pakistani media later reported the President as saying that minorities were equal citizens, and all possible steps were being takento bring them into the mainstreamof national life. He called on all concerned' especially leaders of all faiths, to play their partin promoting interfaith harmony.

The water-purification project in the Punjabi town of Gojra, 230 miles from Islamabad, grew out of an incident in 2009, when nine Christians were burned out of their homes (News, 7 August 2009).

Interfaith groups in West Yorkshire wanted to help promote religious harmony, and two years ago hosted a delegation from the region to discuss what practical help could be offered.

Access to clean water is a huge problem, and the Yorkshire community raised more than £6500 to build the purification plant.

"We now want to...raise more money for more plants," Bishop Robinson said.

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