Reflection: Redeem the Oppressed Director Speaks at United Nations Conference on Persecution of Religious Minorities in Pakistan
It is our responsibility to shed light on the ongoing persecution and discrimination faced by religious minorities in Pakistan, as highlighted by Farrukh Harrison Saif at the United Nations Office in Geneva a few years ago. It is well-known that these groups, particularly Christians, have faced significant challenges in the country for many years. The strict blasphemy laws of Pakistan, which carry the death penalty, have been used to target and persecute religious minorities. There have also been numerous incidents of violence against these communities, including attacks on churches and individuals.
Pakistan was originally intended to be a secular country for religious minorities, with the country’s founder, Mr. Jinnah, stating on 14th Nov 1946 that he was “not fighting for Muslims” and that his aim was to build a secular separate country for the religious minorities of India. However, despite the vital role that Christians have played in the creation and development of Pakistan, they have faced ongoing issues and persecution. The discrimination and persecution of Christians and other religious minorities can be traced back to the constitution of 1973, which barred these groups from higher official status in the government. The 8th amendment to the constitution, made in 1991, further contributed to the persecution of religious communities in the country and reawakened the Christian persecution through the blasphemy laws. Since 1987, there have been 222 cases of blasphemy laws registered against Christians. This law has been used to settle personal vendettas against the oppressed and persecuted Christian community and has led to the destruction of Christian colonies and villages by Muslim fundamentalists.
The policies of the 1980s, which involved the training of mujahideen and the establishment of madrassas, also contributed to the persecution of Christians in Pakistan. The mujahideen were later used as a tool for proxy wars within and outside of Pakistan and were activated as extremist groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba, Harkut-ul-Mujahideen, and Jaish-e-Mohammed. These groups continue to be active in Pakistan and have targeted churches and Christian events. There have been several high-profile attacks on Christian places of worship in the country, including the twin suicide bombing of All Saints Church in Peshawar in 2013 and attacks on churches in Lahore in 2015.
It is imperative that the international community pay attention to the situation of religious minorities in Pakistan and take action to address the ongoing persecution and discrimination they face. In 2020, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) designated Pakistan as a “country of particular concern” due to its ongoing and severe violations of religious freedom. The USCIRF report cited the country’s blasphemy laws and the government’s failure to protect religious minorities from violence and discrimination as major contributing factors to the country’s poor record on religious freedom.
Despite the challenges faced by religious minorities in Pakistan, many people from these communities continue to speak out and advocate for their rights. There are also a number of organizations and groups working to support and protect the rights of religious minorities in the country. It is essential that the international community continue to pay attention to the situation of religious minorities in Pakistan and take action to address the ongoing persecution and discrimination they face.
If you are concerned about the ongoing persecution and discrimination faced by religious minorities in Pakistan, we encourage you to consider supporting our work at Redeem the Oppressed, a 501c3 that works to save and protect persecuted minorities in the country. Your donation will help us to continue our efforts to provide assistance and support to those who are facing persecution and to advocate for the rights and freedoms of these vulnerable communities. Together, we can make a difference and help to bring an end to the suffering of religious minorities in Pakistan. Thank you for your support.