St Andrews Church, built in 1860 is one of four churches the Government of Pakistan has proposed to demolish to make way for undesired metro-line.
It is 4am and I am writing this article, another sleepless night follows the pain and anguish I feel for suffering Christians in Pakistan. Living as a British Pakistani Christian is a simple matter, I have access to clean water, food, the security of my own home and the knowledge that a benefits system exists to help me should my financial position change. Most importantly however the laws of the land protect me from discrimination and persecution and statutory authorities exist that in the main apply the rule of law for my benefit.
Some may argue that as an ethnic minority individual I am more likely to be stopped by UK police whilst driving my car, but for some reason I have only suffered a random stop and search once and that was when I was probably driving erratically due to tiredness from a long drive back from Scotland. I spoke quite civilly to the police officer who answered in kind. The matter was resolved without fuss and for the latter part of my journey I felt quite refreshed. I am not saying racism does not exist in the UK - just that I have been fortunate enough not to have been subjected to prejudices that have alienated me from society. The '80s were bad but Britain has changed since then and I am totally ensconced in this country that stirs my passion and holds my utmost loyalty.
That said, I wonder how it must feel for the Pakistani Christians of Lahore. The recent Gulshan bomb attack killed much more Christian victims and was barely a week after the anniversary of the Lahore twin church bomb attack last year. However, this time, they not only had to mourn their fatalities and casualties but also had to face the ignominy of their neighbouring Muslims telling them that their calls for better protection were unfounded. Apparently as more valuable Muslims were also slain in the attack this latest extremist violence was not Islamic targeting of Christians, but an attack by extremists on Pakistanis? Sadly no-one shared the script with Jamat -ul Ahrar responsible for the bomb attack who openly declared that the jihadist violence on Easter day 2016, was specifically planned to kill Christians during one of their most holy festivals. A Pakistani government in denial made the obvious correlation that this was an attack on the sovereignty of Pakistan and retribution for the progress made by internal security forces in defeating the Taliban insurgents in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Moderate and liberal Muslims across the globe joined hands in unity against the terror of a fundamentalist ideology, openly condemning Christian groups who accepted the statement to Pakistan's media by Ehsanullah Ehsan leader of the very same Taliban splinter group named earlier in this paragraph, who apparently must have been lying as 'there is no Christian only park in Pakistan." said a caller to a BBC Asia Network programme I was an invited guest for. Obviating the fact that for decades it has been a Christian custom in Pakistan for families to attend amusement parks after Easter and Christmas morning devotions or services for decades. I myself went to Gulshan Park whilst celebrating Christmas in 2010 so am very aware of the tradition - something I have previously written about on our website and within local papers here in the UK.
The government of Pakistan has always been indifferent to the plight of Pakistani Christians and other minorities. Various departments have promulgated job adverts for sewage jobs, janitors and cleaners for Christian applicants only. When questioned on this practice they have declared the process one that cares for 'illiterate minorities' and act of 'positive discrimination' many in the west will be sickened to hear, disturbed to learn about, no doubt. But that is just scratching the surface. Only a few days ago Christians in Lahore protested over plans to rid Pakistan of four of its oldest heritage sites, churches that were established early during the British Raj. The churches are to be demolished to make way for an Orange Line metro (underground train service). Under the Antiquities Act 1975, no development schemes and new constructions can be undertaken near a heritage site, unless a distance of 200 hundred feet is maintained, but the rule has been ignored. One church, St Andrew's Presbyterian church, was founded in 1860 and predates Pakistan. The pastor, Pastor Hanook, spoke to the BPCA and advised us that the church was not consulted by either the Lahore Development Agency (LDA) or the Traffic Engineering & Transport Planning Agency (TETPA), both of whom are government departments. In fact, the clergy and parishioners were rudely informed of the plans when labourers, without any approval or notification letter, started drawing lines around their property. This latest government betrayal occurred one Sunday after church service, and parishioners were barged out of the way for the workmen to undertake the demarcation. The United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) has stayed silent on this matter much as it did while ancient Christian monuments and buildings were eradicated from IS held zones. Their silence on the destruction in Iraq was maligned, despite a lack of any influence over IS. Their silence on this proposed destruction in Pakistan, a country where they are already funding protection of several Muslim heritage sites, reeks of a lack of impetus, fortitude, and desire. The removal of these church buildings is a clear attempt at annihilating Christianity from Pakistan and can only be viewed as one prong of a multifaceted approach to an ongoing genocide in Pakistan.
Why do I use the term genocide in relation to the unwarranted removal of four church buildings from one city in Pakistan, an act that is ostensibly an opportunity to develop a flagging economy you may ask. Well perhaps I need to explain further, in 2013 Muslim NGO "Movement of Solidarity and Peace" estimated that 700 Christians girls are abducted, raped and forced into Islamic marriage every year (click here). That figure is almost two a day and many Christian NGOs would argue the figure is conservative at best and just a fraction of the number of girls captured and tortured in this fashion every year - yet no-one bats an eyelid. Many of these girls are placed into Christian brothels by their Muslim 'husbands' a practice that in Pakistan is apparently growing.
In Jan 2012, The News reported on a Muslim brothel that had been created with Christian rape and forced conversion victims, in a place called Ayub Goth, near the town of Essa Nagri in Karachi, only metres away from a Catholic Church. Moreover Muslim men gather in the very same Christian area every evening armed with guns and pick which houses they will loot and which girls will be raped. In one incident an elderly mother had to bear the screaming of her two daughters while she was behind a locked door in another room crying and praying. She has been quoted as saying:
“I saw two of my daughters being raped in front of me,” an old lady from Essa Nagri told The News. “It is considered that Chooras (meaning dirty cleaners a derogatory term for Christians) have no integrity.” She says that around midnight, men from other areas start gathering in their neighbourhood. “They are usually drunk. They choose which home they will plunder.”
"The News" have removed their on-line article now, however I found this report (click here).
Sadly this is only the tip of the iceberg, a report by the National Commission for Justice and Peace who reviewed all blasphemy cases up until 2013, discovered that 15% of blasphemy allegations are laid against Christians, despite only making up only 1.6% of the population of Pakistan. Moreover, deplorable statistics such as 86% of Christians working as sewage cleaners, domestic servants or being in bonded labour (modern day slavery) highlight the ongoing subjugation of minorities in Pakistan. Worse still, only 7% of Christians attain an adequate level of literacy caused by the reticence of parents sending daughters to school due to fear of rape, reluctance to send children as a consequence of bullying and harassment, fear of proselyting especially as Islamic studies is a mandatory course and more often then not an inability to afford school fees or the exorbitant costs surrounding education at allegedly 'free' states schools. Nothing is being done to rectify this disparity of educational services in Pakistan quite conversely as referred to earlier Christians are kindly being offered sweeper and cleaner government employment by their magnanimous authorities. A practice believed to be addressing their commitment to a 5% quota for all National and Provincial Government employment roles to be provided to minorities, though I cannot help but think this is not how the system was meant to be implemented when described to foreign aid sponsors Britain and America.
The genocide does not end here but I am now acutely aware that this article is reaching mammoth proportions. So in less detail I highlight further evidence of the ongoing genocide. A church in Badami Bagh near Lahore and one in Karachi were forced to sign contracts to hold services at times inoffensive to Muslims. Agreements for the contract in meetings presided over by police in which the Muslim negotiators outnumbered Christian elders by 5 to one. The Christian leaders have publicly intimated however that no duress was applied and that the decision peacefully resolved growing friction in the local community. So all sides are now happy and all is well!
Police inactivity during several attacks on Christian communities such as St Joseph's Colony in 2013, Shanti Nagar in 2001 and Gojra in 2009 (an event that triggered the formation of the BPCA), are reminders that state statutory authorities are insouciant to the concerns of Christians. In the incident at Gojra it was alleged that a Christian couple had used torn shreds of the Koran had been used as confetti at a wedding. For this a newly wed couple were shot in a church building along with seven members of their family. After this for good measure a mob of three thousand Muslims (not extremists but work colleagues and neighbours) proceeded by razing 200 homes and two churches to the ground, for good measure. Later Police confirmed that their was no evidence of any Koran desecration - only after they watched the whole incident unfold standing down because of a risk assessment that meant they would be in danger. Moreover the 100 mobsters arrested were set free one year later after the Christian community dropped charges and the state government decided not to pursue justice.
But the justice system of Pakistan has reached two extremely low points that beggar belief. In 2010 two pastors ho had been exonerated by a brave Muslim judge, were shot dead with the judge outside Faisalabad High Court only minutes later. No-one was brought to justice. Then later that year 300 Christian lawyers smashed a court and police vehicles in protest of a court action being taken against a member of the Muslim legal fraternity. Former President of Lahore Bar Association Memnoon was accused of physical attacks, starvation and rape of a Christian minor of 11 years who had his domestic servant. Parents had gone to local police to free her after she had admitted the rape to them during their regular visits but police refused to take action against the prominent Muslim. Two months later she was delivered dead to a local hospital and was said to have fatally fallen down some stairs. Initial doctor reports stated she had evidence of torture, rape and emaciation and was a minor. Later she was found to be of consensual age, had evidence of self mutilation and was relatively healthy during a court led post-mortem. Christian lawyers failed to attend court for the prosecution due to threats and intimidation - mainly put off by the storming of and rampaging around courts. The accused man was set free and not one of the lawyers involved in criminal damage and violence were ever disbarred despite photographic and video evidence (click here)
Shama and Shazad felt the wrath of 3000 Muslims last year after the bonded labourers were accused of blasphemy, by the accountant of their master. They asked to leave their 'employment' on a brick kiln after Shama was raped by the accountant. However until they could pay a fine of £1000's of pounds that a loan of less then £50 had generated, they were locked in a room. This despite 14 hours a day of work six days a week for a period of four years. That should teach people not to sign contracts with a thumb print that they are too illiterate to read without help of a solicitor. But desperation wins out every time in a country that cares little for the suffering minorities in their midst. Shama and Shazad were stripped naked and mocked publicly, while Shama was gangraped before Shahzad. They were then tied up to the back of a tractor and dragged across rocky terrain. Not content their Muslim neighbours and colleagues (not extremists) burned them alive in a brick kiln. Compassionate Pakistani media teams, only hours later, interviewed their six year old son Suleman who confirmed their bodies were twitching whilst being burnt alive. We are one of the groups caring for the children and confirm that all of them are still haunted by the attack.
I could go on but won't, suffice to say the alienation of minorities is a product of years of inculcation of hatred towards them. The national Curriculum of Pakistan has demonized and caricatures Christians and other minorities, in Particular Christians are also referred to as spies of the west and anti-Pakistani. Moreover any contribution made towards the development of Pakistan by Christians and other minorities is bereft from historic account. A report by the United States Commission for Religious Freedom highlighted the problem in 2011. The Pakistani Government assured them changes would be made and they were - they removed some of the highlighted concerns from various textbooks and added a few new ones (click here).
I have written this article to highlight the ongoing saga of whether there is persecution faced by Christians in Pakistan. Powers in the West such as the UK and US continue to say that Pak-Christians suffer severe discrimination and not persecution. They are simply intent on preserving existing trade agreements and ally status in the war on terror. Yet it took a covert operation by American military and secret services to locate and terminate Osama Bin Ladin, that resulted in Pakistani Muslims across the globe condemning the the breach of Pakistan's sovereignty. The Government of Pakistan openly condemned the American operation yet failed to apologise for their inability to locate the despot who was living in a wealthy military cantonment only 20 miles from the countries capital.
With this in mind, I call on Christians in the West to respond to this warning and prevent the unnecessary and undesired deaths of further Christians and the complete annihilation of Christianity from Pakistan. Previously a thriving Jewish community in Pakistan was forced to emigrate to safer nations after increased attacks during the Arab -Israeli wars. Once there were 3000 Jews in Karachi alone, now only one openly Jewish man Fischel Benkald resides in the nation. His faith so hated by the nation that the government refuses to allow him to state his faith as Jewish on his passport.
If you want to help the struggling Christian minority and stop the genocide then please sign our petition for western nations to review their current risk profile for Pakistani Christians (click here).
Contact your local MP's, Lords, Congressmen, Senators, MEP's and or other political figures and ask them to intervene on behalf of Pakistani Christians. Challenge them to use any foreign aid budget for Pakistan to lever change in context to the poor human rights records for minorities in or to terminate all funding until improvement can be illustrated. Demand that they apply better protocol for accountability on funds given and that future funds have an amount earmarked in particular for levelling of the disparity in education and employment for minorities.