Since 2012, the persecution of religious minorities, especially Christians, has accelerated. Church bombings, false blasphemy accusations, murders, forced conversions, and widespread discrimination has truly marked the passage of the past five years. Still, despite these intense challenges, there are opportunities for Christians in Pakistan. Before their are able to seize these opportunities though, they will need to overcome many challenges according to one Pakistani journalist.
05/10/2017 Pakistan (The Nation) – The persecution of minorities has accelerated in Pakistan since 2012. Between the years 2012 and 2015, 351 acts of violence were carried out against minorities. According to the report, State of Religious Freedom in Pakistan, published by Jinnah Institute (2015):
“Pakistani Christians faced intense and persistent threats, harassment and acts of violence during the reporting period from January 2012 to June 2015. Over 40 attacks of varying intensity targeted the Christian community, seven churches were damaged and 14 Christians were charged with blasphemy. Sexual assault cases; forced conversions and kidnapping were common and often went unchecked by the state.
In 2013, an arson attack on a working class Christian settlement of Joseph Colony, and a suicide attack on the All Saints Church in Peshawar resulted in a heightened sense of insecurity among members of the Christian community, leading to an increase in the number of Christian citizens seeking asylum abroad. 2014 ended on a tragic note when a poor Christian couple, working in a brick-kiln, was burnt alive by a frenzied Muslim mob due to allegations of blasphemy in Punjab province.
This pattern of persecution and violence continued in 2015 as two churches were bombed in Lahore’s Christian neighborhood of Youhanabad. The situation led to communal rioting when a Christian mob allegedly lynched two Muslim men in the aftermath of the church attacks. In contrast to responses to attacks by Muslim extremist groups targeting religious minorities, the Punjab police displayed a noticeably higher level of commitment in investigating alleged acts of aggression by members of minority groups. Protection of minority groups remained a low priority”.
In the midst of the above persecutions, Christians in Pakistan face a number of key challenges. Firstly, the lack of political activity, participation and knowledge of the Christians in Pakistan is astonishing. At a time when youngsters all over the world are looking for political democratic solutions for their problems, Christians in Pakistan remain ignorant of their political stature. This also presents opportunity for minority activists and NGOs, who can play a critical role in raising awareness regarding political rights which Christians in Pakistan possess. Moreover, seminars and workshops on “legal rights of Christians in Pakistan” for Christian youth may prove pivotal in the survival of Christians in Pakistan.
Secondly, Christians living in Pakistan have traditionally been an underprivileged class. The nonexistence of government initiatives to uplift the economic status of Christians presents an extremely grim future.