Violence continues to rise against Christians in Pakistan 

Nasir Saeed

According to a recent brief published by the USCIRF  (U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom), the overall climate for religious freedom continues to deteriorate, violence against Christians has risen substantially in recent months, and more than 120 Christians have died in the last year as a result of targeted religious violence in Pakistan.

The latest report covers the period from July 2013 to June 2014 and the information gathered by the project is based on reports and news articles in the public domain. It is said that religion-based violence continues to persist, with little or no effective response from the Pakistani government at federal, provincial, or local levels, and that the government has failed to take steps to hold perpetrators accountable or to protect the vulnerable.

“The body count of Christians jumped due to the attack on All Saints Church in Peshawar in September 2013,” the report says.

At least 119 people were killed when two suicide bombers carried out an attack following a service at the church. Islamic extremist group TTP Jundullah – which has links to the Taliban – claimed responsibility for the blast, which was the deadliest attack on Christians in Pakistani history.

Recently the Ex-chief justice of Pakistan Tassaduq Hussain Jillani had taken a suo motto notice over the church attack in Peshawar and had ordered the government to constitute a Council for Minorities’ Rights to protect their rights and their place of worship. This is still in the process of being constituted, while in the meantime religious extremism and hatred against Christians also continues to rise.

Early this year MSP (Movement for Solidarity and Peace) revealed that 1,000 Christian and Hindu girls, aged between 12 and 25, are forced to convert to Islam every year. It is estimated that Christian girls make up 70 per cent of this number, while Hindu girls make up the remainder. Despite this, the government has failed to take steps to stop this massive forced and ongoing persecution of Christians in the name of religion.

Overall, the situation of human rights continues to deteriorate, and the international community has raised its concern on several occasions. On the Maple Croft Human Rights Risk Index 2014, Pakistan listed as number four in the top 10 extreme countries list. Blasphemy laws are considered the root cause of the Christians’ persecution and they have been demanding changes to stop its misuse and bring the perpetrators to justice. 

However, all their calls are proving to fall on deaf ears, and now Christians have started fleeing Pakistan and seeking asylum in different countries. 

 

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