When it comes to religious freedom, Pakistan is among the top offenders. It's actually illegal for Muslims to convert to Christianity. Even sending a text message that reads 'Jesus' can get someone into serious trouble.
FR. GILBERT GIL
"We cannot say in any way, shape or form, that Jesus is the son of God, not even thorough a text message.”
The issue isn't new, but religious persecution against Christians has increased in recent years. The country's blasphemy law has been used to target Christians unfairly.
Sometimes even non-offenders are accused. The penalty can range from a fee to death.
MSGR. ENRICO DAL COVOLO
Pontifical Lateran University, Rector
"A law that allows injustice is the worst. It's such a contradiction. It's not only in Pakistan. It's seen in so many other Middle Eastern countries.”
To reflect on this issue, a book authored by Shahid Mobeen was released to put the numbers in perspective. Only about 2 percent of the population is Christian, which breaks down to roughly 2.5 million people.
Change, he says, is about concrete education, starting with the content of school books in Pakistan, which often lash out against minority religions.
Blasphemy Law and Religious Liberty, Author
"The answer is in promoting education and in the introduction of history of other religions in school. Text books need to eliminate the content that criticizes other religions other than Islam.”
The issue affects more than just Pakistan. Leaders are calling on the international community to speak out against the blasphemy law and if need be, impose restrictions against offending countries.
"Are we no longer interested in this? Do we no longer care about the blasphemy law in Pakistan? Are we indifferent to religious liberty?”
Religious persecution in Pakistan is both direct and indirect. For example non-Muslims cannot be president or prime minister. Furthermore they cannot become judges in federal court, which in essence has the power to strike down any so called un-Islamic or offensive act.