Wednesday, March 29, 2017

"Christians in Pakistan under Threat" - Voice of Pakistani Christian persecution in UNHRC session

An event titled "Christians in Pakistan under Threat" was organized on March 14, on the sidelines of the 34th UNHRC session in Geneva. Representatives from the Christian community in Pakistan including Naveed Walter, Human Rights Defender and founder of Human Rights Focus Pakistan, Rev James Luke, retired Captain of the Pakistani Army and Javed Baksh, a retired Major of the Pakistani Army and former Vice President of the Canadian Christian Association, spoke at the conference. Przemyslaw Czarnecki, member of the Polish Parliament was a special invitee at the event, which was moderated by Mario Silva, Executive Director, and International Forum for Rights and Security (IFFRAS). 

Speaking on the occasion, James Luke expressed grave concern about the systematic oppression of Christians in Pakistan. He recounted numerous instances over the last few years when Christians were targeted and killed by Sunni extremist forces and no action was taken by the Pakistani government to protect the Christian community. He also stated that the blasphemy law was being used as a tool to persecute the religious community.

Javed Bakhsh, while speaking at the event, emphasised that there was a need for the civilised world to take notice of the persecution of Christians in Pakistan. He highlighted how institutionally, the Christians were being deprived of job opportunities, economic benefits and were also facing social ostracism in Pakistan. He called on the Western world to put pressure on Pakistan to stop the genocide of Christians. 

In his statement, Przemyslaw Czarnecki, Parliamentarian from Poland, charged the Pakistani government of repeatedly failing to take steps to protect the rights of Christians in the country. He stated that the list of cases of Christian persecution in the country was endless, and even lawyers and human rights activists who spoke on the issue of Christian rights were being targeted. He also held Pakistan's blasphemy law as an easy tool that was used to persecute Christians. He concluded by stating that there was a serious need for European countries to re-consider their bilateral cooperation with Pakistan and put pressure on the country to take effective measures to improve the condition of Christians.

Naveed Walter, who has been working with the civil society in Pakistan to improve the condition of Christians, touched upon the case of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman who was facing the death penalty under the blasphemy law. He stated that the human rights conditions of minorities in Pakistan was worsening, especially because they were not given political rights, like those enjoyed by Muslims. He stated that the only way the Pakistani government could be forced to grant minorities equal rights was through international pressure. 

A documentary on the dismal condition of Christians in Pakistan administered Kashmir was also screened at the event.
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