Delivering a Critical Oral Intervention on Behalf of Persecuted Christians in Pakistan
Christians in Pakistan are continuing to face persistent persecution, including blatant discrimination by the government and violent attacks by radical Islamic mobs. In a recent written submission to the U.N. Human Rights Council (HRC), we highlighted how Christians in Pakistan are persecuted through blasphemy laws, forced religious conversions, and forced marriages of young Christian girls to Muslim men. As part of our ongoing effort to shed light on Christian persecution around the world, we just delivered a critical oral intervention calling on Pakistan to act now to protect its Christian citizens. One case in particular that we shared in our oral intervention was the case of Shahzad Masih . Shahzad has been imprisoned for over four years and faces a possible death sentence because of a false blasphemy charge, despite no evidence being presented against him. Now, through our international affiliate, the European Centre for Law and Justice (ECLJ), we have appeared (via video) before the HRC to speak out on behalf of his case. As we stated in our presentation: The ECLJ has previously highlighted concerns regarding religious freedom in Pakistan in various reports to this Council. Today, we would like to draw this Council’s attention to 2 cases that require immediate intervention, as Pakistan authorities have failed to provide justice. The first case involves a false blasphemy accusation. Shahzad Masih has been imprisoned for over 4 years despite the fact there was no evidence against him. In fact, the Superintendent of Police testified in court that Shahzad was not guilty. Yet, Shahzad remains in prison; and if convicted, this innocent young Christian man will be sentenced to death. Previously, we have also have warned the HRC how Christian girls are at risk for being abducted and forcibly married to Muslim men in order to convert these young girls, minors, to Islam. In our most recent written submission , we told the HRC that “[a]ccording to one estimate , about, 1,000 Christian and Hindu girls are forced to accept Islam and forcibly married to Muslim men every year.” One such particular case, that we have been involved in through our affiliate office on the ground in Pakistan, is the disappearance of Mehak James . Through our oral intervention, we were able bring further attention to this tragic case: The second case involves a young 14-year-old Christian girl who has tragically disappeared. Although her father, James Masih, turned over evidence of their 45-year-old Muslim neighbor inappropriately contacting their daughter’s cell phone over 40 times at the time of her disappearance, the police refuse to investigate, even after the Inspector General directed them to do so. To date, this innocent young girl has not been found, and her parents do not know if their daughter is still alive, sold into prostitution, or forced to convert to Islam and marry a Muslim man. It is clear that Pakistan refuses to do what is necessary to protect Christians and their right to practice their religion freely. Under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), Pakistan has an obligation to ensure that “[e]veryone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.” Pakistan must uphold these principles and protect the right of religious freedom for all its citizens. Therefore, we called on Pakistan to take immediate action to protect all its citizens: Pakistan cannot allow these types of cases to continue without justice. We request that this Council remind the Government of Pakistan of its national and international obligations, and to follow through on its commitment to protect all its citizens, including its minorities. Join us as we continue to advocate for Christians facing persecution all around the world.