MUMBAI, India – Pakistan’s Catholic bishops highlighted their solidarity as fellow citizens during a meeting with the country’s prime minister.

Members of the Pakistani Episcopal Conference met with Prime Minister Imran Khan for around 30 minutes on July 4, in an encounter Archbishop Joseph Arshad called “cordial.”

“As president of the bishop’s conference, I highlighted and appreciated all the government is doing for the minorities and the society,” he told Crux.

The vast majority of the population in the country is Muslim, with Christians making up just 1.5 percent of the population. Minority communities have often been targeted for attacks in Pakistan, and can run afoul of the country’s strict blasphemy laws.

On Christmas 2018, Khan took to Twitter to promise to treat minorities as equal citizens in the country.

“I appreciated in a very special way the initiative and program of the government for a ‘Green Pakistan.’ I told the prime minister that this was in keeping with Pope Francis’s encyclical Laudato si’ on the environment,” Arshad said.

The archbishop said he told Khan that Caritas Pakistan has started a Million Trees Campaign in the country, in order to increase the number of trees.

Arshad said he also told the prime minister he appreciated his efforts to promote interfaith dialogue aimed at furthering harmony and tolerance, adding that “dialogue initiatives will be carried out not only in institutions, but at the grassroot level.”

“Prime Minister Imran Khan was concerned about the problems faced by us, and was concerned and determined to do everything his government can to resolve our concerns. The prime minister reiterated the commitment of the government to make every possible effort for addressing issues of the minority communities,” the archbishop told Crux.

The bishops also presented a donation of around $35,000 to the government “to show our solidarity as citizens with the people of Pakistan.” The money is a contribution to a fund for developing the Diamer-Bhasha and Mahmand dams.

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