ISLAMABAD: Top Christian clergymen from across the country along with minority lawmakers will gather in the capital next week to reach a consensus over the proposed Christian Marriage and Divorce Bill, 2016, it emerged on Sunday.
Representatives of all churches will gather at the ministry of human rights on August 10 to discuss the bill drafted by the ministry on the issue of marriage and divorce, said an official.
Sources in the rights ministry said that several meetings have taken place since the ministry drafted the law. However, the bishops and pastors from across the country failed to reach unanimity. Subsequently Law Minister Zahid Hamid called them on August 10 so that the process of consultation could be carried forward.
Sharafat Ali Chaudhry, a legal consultant in the human rights ministry who also drafted the law, explained that initially the ministry took the initiative to amend the Christian Marriage Act, 1872 and Christian Divorce Act, 1869 as the laws were considered ‘outdated’ in contemporary circumstances.
In existing Christian Marriage Act, 1872 and Christian Divorce Act, 1869 there was a deficiency of registration of marriage which was the biggest problem of minorities, explained another official, who is close to the development.
Bishop Nasir Samuel, secretary general of the Supreme Council of Churches in Lahore, told The Express Tribune there is no need to enact fresh legislation. The Bible, according to him, does not sanction any addition of divorce grounds in the law. “I will definitely oppose the draft in the meeting, as to support divorce is to challenge the Bible which is unacceptable,” said Bishop Samuel, who believed that no one has a right to amend the law.
Dr Alxander Jhon Malik, former Bishop of Lahore for the Church of Pakistan, who was also invited in the meeting, criticised the minister for not inviting the “genuine bishops and pastors”.
Asiya Nasir, a Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam lawmaker on a minority seat, said that several meetings took place but consensus could not be developed. The lawmakers said that according to the Biblical perspective there is no concept of divorce, but she said that amendment should be made without touching the principles set by the Bible.
A PML-N lawmaker on a minority seat, Khalil George, said that since the matter is sensitive he would only give his opinion in the meeting after consulting the bishop.