Archbishop Joseph Coutts became Pakistan’s first cardinal in 24 years at a ceremony at the Vatican’s St. Peter’s Basilica yesterday.

Pakistan’s first cardinal in nearly a quarter of a century says his country’s government is unable to control Islamic extremism.

“Our government is not strong enough to control the kind of extremism that has developed in the country,” Joseph Coutts, Archbishop of Karachi since 2012, said, adding: “It is enough to accuse someone of blasphemy … and you’re finished,” as reported by the US-based National Catholic Reporter.

Archbishop Coutts was one of the attendees at a symposium on international religious freedom in Rome, co-hosted by the US Embassy to the Holy See, Aid to the Church in Need, and the Sant’Egidio Community, on 25 June.

‘I don’t know the answers’

The archbishop, who became Pakistan’s first cardinal in 24 years yesterday (28 June), said much of the violence came from “extremist thinking largely based on emotions”.

He said he was once threatened after visiting a Muslim friend’s madrassa during the Christmas season. A few days later, he and some of his Muslim friends received hand-written notes with the warning: “Stop all this rubbish or we’ll pull out your tongues.”

“What can you do with people like this?” the archbishop said. “This is the reality. I think we’ve got to look for the answers, but I don’t know the answers.”

World Watch Monitor reported last month that there is a gap between the ideals stipulated in official documents like Pakistan’s constitution, which guarantees religious freedom, and the reality for Christians and other minorities in the overwhelmingly Muslim country.

When a bomber killed 127 people at a Pakistan church in 2013, the country’s Supreme Court issued a list of instructions to the government to protect religious minorities. Four years later, the government has yet to follow through on most of them.

“So the judgment alone is not enough. There must be mechanisms developed to overcome those countervailing factors,” Sarwar Bari, national director of the Islamabad-based rights group Pattan, told World Watch Monitor last month.

Asylum seekers

Meanwhile a Pakistani Christian family who moved to the UK in 2012 say they daren’t go back to Pakistan for fear of their lives, reported Christian Today last week.

The family of four, who now live in Scotland, have had their appeals for asylum repeatedly rejected by the government.

They say they fled following the killing of two Christians in Faisalabad in 2010. The father, Maqsood Bakhsh, 50, said the perpetrators knew where he lived and wanted to kill him as well.

He told Christian Today that in the last couple of years four of his friends have been killed by extremists, while his sister-in-law’s brother is serving life in jail for blasphemy against Islam.