For years, the ACLJ has been raising the alarm for Christians in Pakistan who are living their lives in constant fear of violent persecution. Christians have been beaten, abducted, raped, imprisoned, bombed, and murdered.
Now a new report by Christian human rights organization Open Doors has ranked Pakistan the 5th most dangerous country in the world for Christians due to violent Islamic oppression. We just filed a critical written submission to the U.N. Human Rights Council (HRC) through our European office, the European Centre for Law and Justice (ECLJ).
While the government of Pakistan has taken some steps to increase protection of the religious freedom of minority groups, Christians face growing discrimination and persecution from extremist groups and societal actors and are targeted under blasphemy laws, resulting in hundreds of arbitrary arrests and prosecutions. In fact, the death penalty is still mandatory for certain blasphemy convictions. Other forms of persecution that Christian communities face include, inter alia, violence, rape, forced conversion, illegal occupation of land, murder, and assault. Christians have also been killed by mobs, attacked by suicide bombers, and had their houses burned to the ground. In fact, Pakistan was recently ranked by Open Doors (an international ministry serving persecuted Christians and churches worldwide) as the 5th worst country in the world for Christians to live.
We’ve been fighting tirelessly to protect persecuted Christians in Pakistan, in some cases literally saving their lives.
Last year we told you how our legal team in Pakistan went to court to defend a Christian man who was falsely accused by disgruntled Muslim relatives of burning pages of the Quran after a family dispute, an offense under Pakistan’s blasphemy laws punishable with life imprisonment.
When our attorneys found out about a Christian family – including young children – being forced to perform backbreaking bonded labor – akin to slavery –against their will, we quickly took action. We filed a petition in the Lahore High Court, and when court officials went to rescue the family, they found the father and daughter shackled to a bed to prevent them from escaping. If not for our legal intervention, the entire family might still be suffering their unimaginable predicament simply because they are Christians.
Remember, we also reported the horrific murder of a Christian couple who were savagely beaten by an angry mob – despite the fact that the wife was pregnant at the time – and then thrown into a brick kiln where they burned to death.
And of course we must never forget how Asia Bibi, Christian mother of five, was sentenced to die by hanging because she dared drink from the same water as a Muslim under Pakistan’s archaic blasphemy laws. After more than four years of our global advocacy, Pakistan’s Supreme Court finally reviewed her case. Ultimately, the high court overturned her conviction, setting Asia Bibi free.
The ACLJ continues to work to defend Pakistan’s Christians from targeted abuse and persecution. As we’ve recently reported, our affiliate office on the ground in Pakistan, the Organization for Legal Aid (OLA), has even started an Outreach and Awareness Campaign to reach out to the Christian communities in Lahore, Pakistan’s second-largest city, and its surrounding areas.
Our goal is to reach out to religious and political leaders and social activists and inform them about their rights under Pakistani law, and to distribute awareness pamphlets that will include basic information about common legal issues regarding human rights abuses and societal discrimination and OLA’s work in that area.
Christians in Pakistan should feel safe to pray and worship freely without the threat of violence and worse from Islamic extremists. That is why our statement urged the U.N. to intervene and work with the Pakistani government.
It is imperative that the U.N. take swift action and work with the government of Pakistan to ensure that Christians are able to safely reside within its borders. No one should have to live under the fear of being persecuted or prosecuted for holding a minority faith. This is why we respectfully request that this Council work with the government of Pakistan in order to protect the people who are vulnerable to prosecution under blasphemy laws or are persecuted by the majority for their faith. The Council can also work with the Pakistani government and make recommendations to improve the situation of the justice system that allows violence against religious minorities. All citizens must be equal before the law, and no one should be treated as second-class because of his or her religion.
We must continue to work to defend Pakistan’s Christians not only from violent persecution from angry mobs but also the tacit persecution of the Pakistani judicial system which imprisons Christians without proper justification and allows extremists who attack and kill Christians to go unpunished.
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