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Sunday, January 10, 1999 Published at 18:25 GMT

World: South Asia

Pakistani Christians protest on Indian border

About 500 people joined the demonstration on the border

Christians in Pakistan have held a demonstration on the border with India, protesting against the recent attacks on Indian Christians.

Around 500 people turned out in the border town of Wagah to draw attention to what the march organisers called the rising tide of Hindu fundamentalism.

Addressing the rally, the Bishop of Lahore, Dr Alexander Malik, condemned the attacks, and said that the United Nations should consider imposing sanctions against India.

The rally condemned what was described as the desecration of churches and copies of the Bible.

Dr Malik told protestors that Indian military action at the Golden Temple in Amritsar, and the demolition of the disputed Babri Mosque, revealed a "fundamentalist mentality".

Other speakers said that the attacks on Christians proved that Indian claims to be a secular state were a sham.

'Helped by authorities'

The BBC Correspondent in Lahore, Shahid Malik, says that contrary to usual procedure, the protest appeared to have been facilitated by the Pakistani authorities. Hundreds of demonstrators were allowed to proceed to Wagah in procession.

Later, the authorities allowed some Christians to pray at Zero Point, where Pakistani territory ends.

Our correspondent says the rally was called by a relatively unknown Christian organisation, the John Joseph Revolutionary Movement. The group is named after the late Bishop of Faisalabad, who shot himself last year as a protest against Pakistan's controversial blasphemy laws which are perceived to be unfair to the country's religious minorities.

Continuing violence

[ image: Churches have been burnt by Hindu fundamentalists]
Churches have been burnt by Hindu fundamentalists
Violence against Christians in India flared up over the Christmas period. The western state of Gujarat was the worst affected.

Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee visited the region on Sunday, following complaints that the Gujarat state government had not done enough to halt the attacks. He said action should be taken against anyone trying to whip up communal tension.

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