The Australian Christian Lobby has renewed its calls for the Australian Government to put diplomatic pressure on Pakistan to abolish its blasphemy laws.

The call comes on the eve of a Pakistani Supreme Court hearing this week into the 2010 death sentence of Asia Bibi for allegedly blaspheming the prophet Mohammad.

“Australia’s $47 million aid budget to Pakistan should be contingent upon the country providing religious freedom to religious minorities, including its 10 million Christians,” ACL Managing Director Lyle Shelton said.

“While Australians are used to Islamist terrorists killing people for allegedly blaspheming Mohammad, most would be surprised to know that the Pakistani Government has laws which condemn people to death for the same thing.

“The Australian Government should not be silent about the lack of religious freedom and the persecution of Christians in Pakistan,” Mr Shelton said.

“Asia Bibi has been languishing in prison for seven years as the appeal of her death sentence has wound its way through the Pakistani judicial system.

“That anyone could be sentenced to death for an alleged blasphemy in a supposedly moderate Islamic State would be a shock to most Australians.

“That we give aid to Pakistan and allow its sporting teams to compete here while it has a system of religious apartheid is doubly shocking,” Mr Shelton said.

Mr Shelton met today with the chairman of the London based British Pakistani Christian Association, Wilson Chowdhry, who is visiting Canberra lobbying MPs and Senators about the plight of persecuted Christians in Pakistan.

Mr Chowdhry is calling on the Australian Government to provide 100 places for persecuted Pakistani Christians in Australia’s annual humanitarian intake, an initiative which has the ACL’s support.

Mr Chowdhry and Mr Shelton will be available for interview in the Senate Courtyard of Parliament House Canberra at 10am tomorrow (October 13).

Media contact: 02 6259 0431

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