Countries » Pakistan
Six people – including two children – were burned alive in anti-Christian attacks on 1st August 2009. That same day, an elderly man – the children’s grandfather – was shot dead. The killings happened as thousands of people rampaged through the Christian quarter of Gojra in the Punjab Province. It had been reported that Christians had cut up pages of the Qur’an to make wedding confetti. The mob, carrying sticks, clubs and firearms, attacked property including more than 150 homes and two churches.
This attack – described in detail on pp103-04 – is one of many inextricably linked to the country’s blasphemy laws (paragraphs B and C of Section 295 of Pakistan’s Penal Code). Offences against the Qur’an receive a sentence of life imprisonment and insults against the Prophet Mohammed can be punished by death. According to the Catholic Church’s National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP), between 1986 and 2010 at least 993 people were charged with either desecrating the Qur’an or slandering Mohammed. Most of the charges have been brought against Muslims: 479 of the accused were Muslims (many from the Shia group) and 340 were Ahmadis, an Islamic religious movement regarded by many orthodox Muslims as heretical. 120 of those accused were Christians
Reports show that the blasphemy laws are often invoked by people with a personal vendetta against a particular group or individual. Since 2001 at least 50 Christians have been killed by those using the blasphemy laws as a pretext. Accusations against alleged blasphemers are often false or motivated by petty interests, encouraging mobs to mete out rough justice without reference to the law.
The constitution states that the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is officially a secular country and a number of recent national laws have reiterated equality of citizens in the eyes of the law “without distinction based on race or creed”. The People’s Party, led by Asif Ali Zardari, Benazir Bhutto’s widower and the country’s current president, has often called for “religious tolerance” and “respect”. However, the blasphemy laws and the (revised) hudud ordinance continue to inflict pain and hardship on religious minorities. Christian women have continued to suffer sexual violation at the hands of extremists, who assume that a combination of the law and societal values will protect them.
Issues of religious tolerance in Pakistan have changed beyond all recognition since partition, when the country was formed out of British India. In August 1947 the country’s founding father, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, famously declared: “You may belong to any religion, caste or creed. That has nothing to do with the State.” The situation could not have been more different by 2010. When early that year Aid to the Church in Need staff visited Pakistan on a fact-finding and project-assessment trip, Archbishop Lawrence Saldanhana, President of the country’s Catholic Bishops’ Conference, told them: “We are experiencing a Talibanisation of Islam. It is not so much that they are becoming more religious, rather that they are becoming more intolerant of others.”
The floods of summer 2010 left a trail of misery on an unprecedented scale – 2,000 dead, one million homes destroyed and 21 million made homeless. But in a sign of how deep-seated the climate of oppression had become, the UN reported that the flood waters had been intentionally diverted into regions highly populated by minority groups, including Christians. Concerns about increasing intolerance were to reach a peak by the end of 2010 when, on a questionable pretext, a Christian, Asia Bibi, was found guilty of blasphemy. This case, the first of its kind to result in the death sentence, set alarm bells ringing about the country’s direction in terms of politics and the law, as well as religion.
Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) supports several projects in Pakistan. You can support these projects by donating via their national offices.
Below you can find one or more finished projects ACN supported in the past.
It was the worst flooding this region has experienced since 1929. Worst affected was the province of Sindh, in the south. The flooding cost the lives of 1,650 people, over 1,100 of them in Sindh province alone. Read more >>
"They are trapped in a net of fatalism, despair and fear and exist on the very lowest rung of the social and economic ladder", writes Father James Kajoo, currently the parish priest in Kunri, describing the situation of his parishioners. By way of explanation he adds, "For the most part they work for big Muslim landowners, to whom they have become indebted and hence dependent." He is speaking of the people of the Parkari Kohli and Punjabi tribes. Read more >>
Breaking News from Pakistan