By Nasir Saeed
The last two months have seen an intensification of the level of discrimination and persecution against Christians, particularly women and young girls. Kidnap, rape, forced marriage and forced conversion to Islam have sadly become everyday occurrences.
No one wants to hear about the degradation of innocent Christian girls, but to remain silent about it would be a greater crime. My hope is that, in sharing news of these crimes, you will not only be better informed of the harsh reality facing so many Christians in Pakistan every day, but also in a better position to help them win justice.
Christians and especially young Christian girls are paying a high price for being Christians in an Islamic society and the proliferation of attacks and accusations in recent months is reaching an unprecedented level. Christian girls are looked down upon with hatred, regarded as inferiors, and treated by men like ‘mal-e-ganimat’ (the term used to describe booty seized during the Islamic war).
In the last few months, three members of the same Christian family have been forced to flee their home because of charges of blasphemy against them, despite there being no evidence to support the claims, and in Faisalabad, the Christian community remains on high alert after two pastors were imprisoned on blasphemy charges and hundreds of Muslim extremists took part in a demonstration against Christians, burning car tyres and throwing stones at a local church.
My fear is that the prolonged suffering is only sowing a seed of rebellion in the hearts of poor and deprived young Christians. As things move from bad to worse, there is a very real danger that the sense of injustice among Christians will spill over.
Despite religious intolerance being at an all-time high, the Pakistani government, politicians and Muslim religious leaders are failing to take it seriously. The police rarely bother to investigate a case until it is pursued by an NGO, church leader or influential individual. Most of the cases are dropped because of pressure from influential Muslims or because the injured parties – very often being in remote and poor areas of Pakistan - lack the money or know-how to see their complaint through.
That being the case, it is difficult to identify the exact number of cases of persecution but it is likely to be much higher than we think because many cases are simply not reported in the media and oftentimes, victims do not come forward to report the injustices meted out against them.
It gives me no pleasure to bring news of persecution but by doing this, I believe you will be in a better position to identify what part you can play in supporting your brothers and sisters as they continue their struggle to receive the same fair treatment as every other Pakistani citizen. At a time when help is in short supply, pray for them, encourage them with letters and messages of hope, and, most importantly, be their voice where you are.