Protection of Christians in Pakistan
By Air Marshal (Retd) Ayaz Ahmed Khan
Los Angeles, CA
Attacks, atrocities and discriminations of Christians have been on the increase since 1980. There have been hundreds of attacks against the Christian community; including attacks on churches and mission schools. Some are reported and some do not get to the press.
On December 19, 2006, a drunken mob high on drugs attacked a Christian congregation at the Church of Nazerene in Lahore. This attack and earlier and later attacks revealed prejudice and intolerance of the majority and the woefully inadequate security of churches during religious congregations.
Since July 2009 three major anti-Christian atrocities occurred. On July 04, 2009 a mob attacked one hundred Christian houses in Bhamani village near Lahore with petrol bombs. The mob assaulted women, throwing acid on some. A young girl who escaped naked from an inferno became the target of acid attack. She tried to commit suicide. Police visited the village but did not register any FIR (report) against the criminals identified by the villagers.
During the first week of August 2009, in two gruesome assaults on Christian villages, large numbers of Christian men, women and children were killed, and their houses and shops set on fire and destroyed. A village near Gojra was attacked by a frenzied mob, seven Christians were killed, several injured, one hundred houses and shops torched. In a similar mob attack on a Christian village near Kasur, several people were hacked to death, and dozens were beaten mercilessly. Properties were torched. Christian leaders in the UK requested the authorities to investigate, and repeal the draconian blasphemy laws, which serve as the pretext for most of the mob carnage against the Christian community.
Instituted into law by President Zia-ul-Haq, the Blasphemy Ordnance has been grossly misused to settle scores with the peaceful Christian minority, which constitutes only two percent of the population. There is an urgent need to protect Christian men, women and children from violence and atrocities, and propaganda and prejudice, being fuelled by fanatic clerics, and anti-Christian groups. There is an urgent need to control and educate the brain washed bigots, who take the law into their own hands and give the impression that we are living in a lawless jungle.
On Tuesday 4 August 2009 the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, made a statement on the violence against Christians in Pakistan: "The recent atrocities against Christians in Pakistan will sear the imaginations of countless people of all faiths throughout the world. As the minister of law in the Punjab has already said, such actions are not the work of true Muslims: they are an abuse of real faith and an injury to its reputation as well as an outrage against common humanity, and deserve forthright condemnation. Christians in Pakistan are a small and vulnerable minority, generally with little political or economic power. They are disproportionately affected by the draconian laws against blasphemy, which in recent years have frequently been abused in order to settle local and personal grievances. They need to be assured of their dignity and liberty as citizens of a just and peaceful society. Their good, their security, is part of the good of the whole Pakistani nation. Those of us who love Pakistan and its people, whatever their faith, feel that the whole country is injured and diminished by the violence that has occurred. I appeal to the Government of Pakistan to spare no efforts, not only in seeing that justice is done in the wake of these terrible events, but also in continuing to build a society in which all faiths are honored and in which the most vulnerable can be assured of the protection of the law and the respect of their fellow-citizens."
This statement is an appeal to the conscience of Pakistani men and women, to do whatever they can to protect our Christian brothers and sisters. The Pakistani media is requested to play its role in assuring the safety and security of the peaceful Christian community, whose loyalty in peace and war has been above board.
Millions of Pakistanis feel deeply grieved at the recurring violence and atrocities against our Christian brothers and sisters, who are a deprived minority, and are living in fear in their own country. They constitute a small peaceful minority, only two percent of the population, and have tried to serve Pakistan as best as they can. Violence and atrocities against the small Christian community on the pretext of blasphemy by mobs led by fanatics has occurred too often, and has to be stopped. Pakistan witnessed a gruesome bloodbath of Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs on its birth, i.e. during the Partition of the sub-continent. A major lesson to be learnt from the Hindu-Muslim-Sikh slaughter was, religious tolerance, mercy and forgiveness. Unfortunately many among us remain prejudiced and intolerant towards other faiths and beliefs and take the law into our own hands, without due investigation. We refuse to listen to other point of view, and our eyes become blood shot by rumors..
The Pakistani Christians’ contributions to the educational and social progress of the Pakistani nation are un-matched. Christian missionary schools and colleges have imparted quality education, which has immensely benefited the country. Millions of Pakistani boys and girls are proud students of Pakistan's finest schools and colleges, run by dedicated Fathers and Mothers, i.e. missionary teachers across the country, in villages, towns and big cities. Hadow Memorial High School in Srinagar Kashmir, later named Tyndal Biscoe College, taught its students to show mercy and goodness to fellowmen, as well as to animals and birds.
As a little boy I brought an injured crow, a baby sparrow and an injured pup to the school, and was rewarded with a hug by the teacher, which I have never forgotten. Such examples should be emulated by all schools and madrassas to create compassion, mercy and love for the weak. In hundreds of Christians hospitals across Pakistan, including eye hospitals in far flung towns, millions of Pakistani, men, women and children have been treated for free since over sixty years. Instead of being obliged and grateful to the Christians of Pakistan, the criminal minded fanatics among us have been attacking villages, killing and injuring innocent Christian men, women and children, and bombing and burning their houses, schools and places of worship. We should be ashamed of ourselves for not stopping the frequent carnage against the unarmed and peaceful Christians of Pakistan. It is the collective responsibility of the Pakistani people and government not only to protect the Pakistani Christians, who are a national asset, but to provide them with guaranteed safety and security to live and prosper in Pakistan, that they have chosen as their home.