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ICC Note:

For Christians in Pakistan, life is hard. Daily discrimination, which can quickly spark into outright persecution, is such a pervasive problem for Christians in Pakistan that many are relegated the country’s lowest rung on the social ladder. False blasphemy accusations, forced conversion to Islam, and attacks on their places of worship only name a few of the types of persecution this community is forced to face because of their religious identity. Recently. Islamic extremist won a political victory with the government, likely setting Pakistan down a path of greater intolerance and extremism. Where will this leave the already persecuted Christian communities of Pakistan? 

12/02/2017 Pakistan (Denver Post) – Travel impresses on the memory a kaleidoscope of disparate images: Two dozen black kites, a common raptor, circle effortlessly on a hazy current of warming mid-morning air. A man is stirring a large pot of curried chickpeas in front of his one room shop. A feral cat sits under the butcher’s blood-reddened table waiting for a scrap. Men in long gray shirts and trousers play cards. In a dusty, narrow street, an old woman sells vegetables. Garrulous gray and black crows look for food along the sewage canal. A hard-worked donkey pulls a cart of pale green guavas while another strains to lug a load of bricks. A toddler rests on the lap of a motorcycle driver, an older child and their mother hold on behind. An auto-rickshaw crammed with school children in uniform passes a truck brightly painted with geometric patterns and elegant Urdu script. Three boys play cricket in a trash-strewn lot a mile from a wealthy neighborhood with meticulously trimmed trees and pots of orange marigolds. A cluster of veiled women in black sift through a pile of exquisite embroidered fabrics at an opulent just-opened shopping mall. Patties of drying cow dung — cooking fuel — bear the handprint of the villager who formed them.

Of all the images from my trip last week to Lahore, Pakistan, more than a few trouble me. The strained smile of the farmer’s son who tells me that he’s placed his hope in God but his eyes bear the unmistakable look of discouragement and anxiety. The family sacrificed to send him to college but he can’t find a job. Like many Pakistani Christians, he faces substantial discrimination. Christians account for roughly 2 percent of the Pakistani population. While there are Christians in the middle and upper classes, the majority are poor. They fill a disproportionate share of menial jobs as labors, sanitation and domestic workers and farmhands.

Life is hard for a lot of people in Lahore. Muslims and Christians alike face daily power outages, outbreaks of dengue fever, bad roads, undrinkable water, and the inescapable air pollution, an acrid pall of automobile exhaust and black coal smoke that covers the city day and night.

Life is harder for Christians. In addition to experiencing everyday discrimination, Christians are murdered for their faith. This year a bomb blast killed 10 Christians. Last year, an Easter Sunday bombing claimed 72 people, including 36 children, and injured more than 320. Churches have been bombed and homes torched. Christians are also accused and convicted of blasphemy. If lucky, they go to jail. In 2014, a mob accused a Christian couple of desecrating a Koran and burned them alive in a brick kiln.

Unfortunately, Pakistan’s Islamist extremists are gaining ground. For three weeks in November, violent mobs shut down roads in Islamabad, the capital city, over a proposed minor change to the country’s blasphemy laws. The Pakistani army refused a request by the civilian government to end the riots. Similar protests broke out in Lahore last week. Perched on the high wall of the city’s 500-year-old Mughal fort, we watched the chanting mob light fires in the road. Black smoke from burning rubber wafted past the Minar-e-Pakistan, the country’s monument to statehood. Hours later the mob came down the street where we waited in line inside a sweet shop. I covered my hair and turned my back to the door. The shopkeeper pulled down the metal rolling gate and locked it.

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