Pakistan: Message by NCJPP on Bishop’s Death and Funeral


Urgent Appeal Case: UA980515
ISSUES: Blasphemy Law in Pakistan,

Message: National Commission for Justice and Peace, Pakistan 8 May 1998 PAKISTAN: Eminent Catholic Bishop Sacrifices His Life to Protest Against Deadly Blasphemy Law

Dear Friends,


The funeral service of Bishop John Joseph, who committed suicide as a protest against the blasphemy laws in Pakistan on 6 May 1998 , was held in his native village Khushpur, District Faisalabad, Friday 8th May.. Though the government of Pakistan tried to minimize the effect of the Bishop’s death by controlling the news, thousands of people, Christians (Catholics and Protestants) and Muslims attended the funeral service. Other mourners included diplomats, political figures and well known human rights activists Asma Jehangir, I.A.Rehman, and Hina Jillani. People came from various parts of the country to pay homage to their beloved leader.

The ceremony was intercepted by chanting of slogans by some youth present there. They demanded a repeal of the blasphemy laws and other clauses in the laws which discriminate against religious minorities.

Apostolic Nuncio Renzo Fratini read Pope John Paul’s message to the congregation at the service. The Pope expressed his profound grief for the death of Bishop John Joseph, and he wishes that the struggle for justice and people’s rights will bear fruit. Messages of condolence from different people were read. It seemed that the echo Bishop John Joseph’s sacrifice has created is being heard in the entire world.

Governments Attitude

Heavy police contingents were posted at various spots on all the roads to the village, Khushpur. There was regular police petrol in Faisalabad city also. Some roads were blocked and no passage allowed, for fear that any emergencies would occur.

The government did its best to minimize the effect by ignoring the incident and not coming up with a statement of any sort. Local electronic media remained silent on this incident.


The Situation in Faisalabad is especially tense. Human Rights groups and NGO’s are preparing a number of re-actions to Bp. John Joseph’s death.

1. An emergency meeting of the National Commission for Justice and Peace was held after the funeral. The members condemned the government’s attitude of apathy and indifference towards the incident. The fact that the government failed to announce the news on the electronic media, which is under its total control, or send a representative to attend the funeral tells a lot about the government’s commitment to the religious minorities, their anxieties and problems. The Justice and Peace Commission reiterated our commitment to Bishop John Joseph’s campaign against all discriminatory laws and pledged to a nation wide movement against these laws.

2. The National Council of Churches and the Catholic Church in Pakistan are considering a protest on the coming Friday, May 15, 1998, with prayer, fasting and closing of Christian schools.

3. A group of Pakistani expatriates is planing a protest in United Kingdom on May 17, 1998.

4. Another demonstration in New York, the United Stated, is being planed for May 19th.

5. KARACHI: A demonstration by the local Christians was staged before the press club at Karachi, and a prayer service was held at the St. Brooks Church.

6. FAISALABAD: When the coffin was brought to Faisalabad, some youth kept chanting slogans. They also pelted stones when police gathered near the Cathedral. The police fired tear-gas, one shell also dropped in the Church compound.

7. A small group of Muslims took on a procession against Christians’ demand for repealing the blasphemy laws.

8. The burial of Bishop John Joseph’s body will be held on Sunday 10 May at the Bishop’s House in Faisalabad.. The mortal remains of Bishop John Joseph are lying now in the Cathedral of St. Peter and Paul, Faisalabad.


A) Happenings on May 9, 1998

– Siege and stoning on Sessions Judge’s House in Faisalabad, slogans against the government.

– Stoning on houses and shops in Faisalabad.

– Protest rally in Karachi.

– Protest rally in Sangla Hills, Punjab demands: blasphemy laws be repealed.

– Protest in Lahore by Quami Masiha Party (Haqiqi group). Play cards and slogans against the discriminatory laws. Hunger strike by the demonstrators.

– A case registered under section 295-C, PPC regarding a signboard being broken down bearing Islamic proclamation of faith (KALIMA TAYYABA). Ranjha Masih, the accused, was arrested in Faisalabad. Demonstration by the Muslim youth against the alleged offense.

– Tear-gas was used by police to disperse the mourners / agitators. Two shells fell in the Church compound, three people injured. Police resorted to aerial firing (Faisalabad).

B) Reaction of Political /Religious Leaders

– A spokesperson of the United States State Department. asked Pakistan Government to repeal blasphemy Laws.

– Government orders investigation of the incident.

– ‘It was a silent protest by a helpless man’, Miraj Mohammed General Secretary Tehrik-e-Insaf.

– ‘Blasphemy laws are not meant to persecute some particular community’, Raja Zafar Ulhaq, Federal Minister for religious and Minorities’ Affair.

– ‘Bishop’s act is an act of stupidity. He must have failed to understand the rationale and beauty of the law’, Mulana Abdul Sattar Niazi, Head of Jamiat Ulema- e- Pakistan.

– ‘The allegation that this law discriminates against religious minorities is not correct’, Nawabzada Nasaullah Khan, head of the National Democratic Party.

– “A religious leader’s suicide has saddened me. The laws incorporated during the dictatorship of Gen. Zia Ulhaq are source of depression for minorities’, Abid Hassan Minto, President Supreme Court Bar Association.

– ‘The law is not discriminatory as such, its purpose is to safeguard the honour of the Prophet Mohammed(PBUH). The Bishop must not have taken the extreme step’, Mushahid Hussain Federal Minister for Information.

Yours sincerely,

(signed) Peter Jacob Executive Secretary, National Commission for Justice and Peace

Document Type : Urgent Appeal Case
Document ID : UA980515
Countries : Pakistan,
Issues : Blasphemy Law in Pakistan,