October 1, 2009.
The pope welcomed Pakistani president Asif Ali Zardari to Castel Gandolfo.
In the exchange of official gifts, President Zardari gave the pope a rug from his country, and in return the pope gave him a portrait of St. Peter’s Square and medals from his pontificate.
During the meeting, the president and the pope touched on issues like the fight against terrorism and the role of the Church in Pakistan in providing health and education services.
They also talked about the wave of recent violence against Christians in the country which has grown increasingly worse in the last months.
In August, Benedict sent a telegram to the Bishop of Faisalabad expressing solidarity after seven Christians were burnt alive in Pakistan.
The Vatican has asked Pakistan to make an effort in putting an end to discrimination against Christians and in respecting the human rights of all citizens.
About 2.8 million people, just over 1% of the total population of Pakistan, is Christian making it a vulnerable demographic to extremist groups in the country.