By Ateet Sharma
New Delhi, Jan 16 : Christians in Pakistan continue to face extreme persecution in every area of their lives, an annual report on the global persecution of Christians has revealed. Ranking Pakistan fifth in the list of 50 countries worldwide where Christians are persecuted for their faith, The World Watch List said that the believers who have converted from Islam face the greatest levels of persecution in Pakistan, but “all Christians are considered second-class citizens in this strongly Islamic” country.
The list is compiled by the Christian advocacy group Open Doors USA and is released at the beginning of each year. It uses data from Open Doors field workers and external experts to quantify and analyze persecution worldwide. Countries are ranked by the severity of persecution of Christians, calculated by analyzing the level of violent persecution plus the pressure experienced in five spheres of life.
The 2021 report highlights the plight of minority Christian community in Pakistan “which is given jobs perceived as low, dirty and dishonourable, and can be victims of bonded labour”. The report says that there are some Christians among the middle classes, but they are still considered inferior to their Muslim counterparts and often face severe workplace discrimination.
“Pakistan remains one of the hardest places to live as a Christian, and violent persecution against Christians and church buildings continues to be particularly bad,” it says.
It adds that Christian girls are at risk of abduction and rape, and are often forced to marry their attackers and coerced into converting to Islam. The World Watch List also once again put Pakistan’s notorious blasphemy laws into spotlight by stating in its annual report that these laws are “vehemently defended” by the Islamic extremist groups which attack or kill those believed to have contravened them.
“There has been a clear pattern, girls from religious minority communities are kidnapped and later converted to Islam in areas where said religious minorities comprise a sizable proportion of the population. In Sindh, such cases mostly take place in areas populated by Hindus like Umar Kot, Ghotki and Tharparkar districts. In the Punjab, similar incidents are reported in areas where the Christian community are in sizable numbers,” journalist Waqar Gillani wrote in The News International.
As reported by IndiaNarrative.com earlier, the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has exposed the ugliness of persecution of minorities in Pakistan. Not only have the minority communities been denied relief aid but have also faced massive discrimination during distribution of food in the lockdown period, a fact acknowledged in the report.
The International Christian Concern (ICC), which works to raise public awareness and provide advocacy for persecuted Christians and other religious minorities around the world, has reported several incidents of Christians and Hindus being denied food aid in Pakistan because of their religious identity.
“In some incidents, these individuals were asked to convert to Islam to receive desperately needed assistance to survive the Covid-19 pandemic,” the ICC said.
It is thus not very surprising that year after year, Pakistan continues to be redesignated as a “country of particular concern” by the US State Department on the recommendation of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF).
Ironically though, in spite of the United States accusing Imran Khan government of “engaging in systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom” Pakistan, just like its iron brother China — another major human rights violater — made it to the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), last year.
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