Report on the current situation of religious freedom in Pakistan | Bedrängte Christen

Report on the current situation of religious freedom in Pakistan

December 2017: Report on the current situation of religious freedom in Pakistan

In Faisalbad fordern Demonstranten nach den Anschläge von Lahore an Ostersonntag die pakistanische Regierung auf, einen Aktionsplan gegen Hass und Intoleranz zu entwickeln. Foto: missio / S. Sheeky

In Faisalbad fordern Demonstranten nach den Anschläge von Lahore an Ostersonntag die pakistanische Regierung auf, einen Aktionsplan gegen Hass und Intoleranz zu entwickeln. Foto: missio / S. Sheeky

The ancestors of most Pakistani Christians were oppressed, low-caste Hindus who converted to Christianity in the 1800s when European evangelists spread the Christian gospel on the subcontinent under British colonial rule. Pakistan was come into being in the name of Islam after Muslims of the Indian subcontinent called for a separate homeland. Although Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the nation’s founder, addressing the Constituent Assembly stated that citizens may belong to any religion as it has nothing to do with the business of the state, a resolution proclaiming that the future constitution of Pakistan would be modeled on the ideology and principles of Islam was kept as a preamble of the Constitution. In 1985, when it was made an integral part of the text, Pakistan became an Islamic republic, and the Council of Islamic Ideology and the Shariah (Islamic) court were established.

Currently, Pakistani Christians face discrimination from the law of the land as well as threats of violence in a country where 97 percent of the population is Muslim. Pakistan is the 3rd most populous Muslim country and Islam is the official religion of Pakistan. The total number of Christians in Pakistan was estimated at 2.5 million in 2005, or 1.6% of the population.

Societal Attitudes towards Christians

The Christians generally have good relations with other religious minorities and some liberal Muslims” but overall attitudes are overwhelmingly negative. Many Pakistanis citizens consider local Christians to be “Western” agents and believe that they act on behalf of “the West” to promote a “foreign agenda” According to the report of Jinnah institute from 2012-2015 at least 351 incidents of violence were carried out against minorities. Report also stated that Pakistani Christians faced intense and persistent threats, harassment and acts of violence during the reporting period from January 2012 to June 2015. Over 40 attacks of varying intensity targeted the Christian community, seven churches were damaged and 14 Christians were charged with blasphemy. Sexual assault cases; forced conversions and kidnapping were common and often went unchecked by the state.

In 2013, an arson attack on a working class Christian settlement of Joseph Colony, and a suicide attack on the All Saints Church in Peshawar resulted in a heightened sense of insecurity among members of the Christian community, leading to an increase in the number of Christian citizens seeking asylum abroad. 2014 ended on a tragic note when a poor Christian couple, working in a brick-kiln, was burnt alive by a frenzied Muslim mob due to allegations of blasphemy in Punjab province. This pattern of persecution and violence continued in 2015 as two churches were bombed in Lahore’s Christian neighborhood of Youhanabad. The situation led to communal rioting when a Christian mob allegedly lynched two Muslim men in the aftermath of the church attacks. In contrast to responses to attacks by Muslim extremist groups targeting religious minorities, the Punjab police displayed a noticeably higher level of commitment in investigating alleged acts of aggression by members of minority groups. Protection of minority groups remained a low priority

Issues of minorities/Christians in Pakistan:

  • Attacks on religious places and settlements
  • Target and Extra Judicial Killings
  • Discrimination at workplaces and educational institutions
  • Allegations of theft and robbery and blasphemy
  • Forced Conversion and Forced Marriages
  • Discriminatory Literature and Speeches
  • Land Grabbing and Evictions

Discrimination against Christians in Pakistan:

The Article 25(1) of Constitution 1973 is as under:

“All citizens are equal before law and are entitled to equal protection of law”.

It is the spirit and soul of the constitution but practically the situation is contrary.

Education:

The Article 22 (1) states:

“No person attending any educational institution shall be required to receive religious instruction, or take part in any religious ceremony, or attend religious worship, if any instruction, ceremony or worship relates to a religion other than his own.”

The real situation is absolutely repugnant. The Christians students are compelled to study ethics while the Muslim students study Islamiat which is their own book of religion. According to the above mentioned article of the Constitution, the Christian students must be given the opportunity to study the book of their own religion. So it is against the spirit of equity and natural justice that the Christian students are deprived of their fundamental rights while, internationally, the subject of religion is optional while in Pakistan it is compulsory. Not only the Christian national faces the discrimination but the Christian students are also the victims of this discrimination in Pakistan. Moreover, the Christians are denied equal opportunity in education. The Muslims students receive 20 extra marks in school for learning the Qur’an, which places religious minorities at a disadvantage when applying for higher education. Additionally, textbooks used in schools reportedly contain offensive or erroneous information about Christianity, or fail to mention religious minorities.

No Representation in Services:

Under the Article 36 of the Constitution which is:

“The State shall safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of minorities, including their due representation in the Federal and Provincial services.”

But practically, no special seats are reserved for the Christians or minorities in the Federal and Provincial Departments. 

Employment:

The Christians are subject to employment discrimination and work primarily in menial occupations. They are often “herded into low menial tasks” partly due to the high rates of illiteracy and poverty among Christians, and also because of societal attitudes that consider Christians to be “unclean” Further, some job advertisements for cleaning jobs specify that the jobs are for Christians only Sources also indicate that Christian cleaners are indefinitely employed as “temporary” workers with contracts that expire and are renewed every 88 days. Christian girls often work as maids or nurses and are at risk of sexual assault in these jobs. The Christians employed in various sectors are often pressured to convert to Islam and later threatened with physical violence

 

Violence and mob attacks:

In Pakistan “a significant portion of Islamic clerics” incite violence and discrimination against Christians. Additionally, it indicated that it is common in both urban and rural areas to use mosque loudspeakers to mobilize hundreds or thousands of militants to take action against religious minorities. About 81pc of Pakistan’s Christians live in Punjab, mainly in the six districts of Central Punjab – Lahore, Faisalabad, Kasur, Sheikhupura, Gujranwala and Sialkot. According to the last census, most of these Christians in Punjab live in rural areas. For the last 13 years many attacks on the Christian community have left them paralyzed with fear and still awaiting justice.

Blasphemy Laws:

Since the Blasphemy Law was promulgated, not even a single case has been proved to be a true against a Christian. This law is misused since its formation. The people misuse it for their personal disputes. Many churches, hospitals and schools are burnt due to this law. This law is known as Section 295 (a)(b)(c) of the Pakistan Penal Code. The Government has badly failed to control the misuse of this law. The Christians are murdered and compelled to leave their homeland due to this law.

According to the data of National Commission for Justice and Peace total 1522 cases of blasphemy have been registered until now. Details are as under: 

 

Blasphemy Victims Religion-wise (summary) 1987-2016

#

Muslim

Christian

Ahmadis

Hindu

 

Total

01

764

218

501

28

1511

02

                                                                   Religion/Name not known

   11

                                                                                                                        Total

1522

 

Blasphemy Victims Province-wise (summary)  1987-2016

#

Punjab

Sindh

Balochistan

K.P.K

AJK

Total

01

1160

308

06

36

01

1511

02

                                                                   Religion/Name not known

   11

                                                                                                                        Total

1522

 

Victims of Blasphemy Laws in 2016

Religion

Number of Victims

Muslims

10

Christians

06

Hindus

01

TOTAL

17

 

Safeguards and protection of minorities in constitution of Pakistan

  • Wherein adequate provision shall be made for the minorities freely to profess and practice their religions and develop their cultures;
  •  Wherein adequate provision shall be made to safeguard the legitimate interests of minorities and backward and depressed classes;

Positive steps taken by govt. of Pakistan for uplift of religious minorities

  •  Allocation of 5% job quota for minorities at federal and provincial level.
  •  Educational Scholarship for minority students.
  •  Holidays declared for minorities on their religious festivals.

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