Christian Activists in Pakistan Under Threat
By ICC’s Pakistan Correspondent
09/12/2019 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – In the past month, International Christian Concern (ICC) has documented multiple cases of Christian activists in Pakistan being targeted for speaking out against the oppression of their community. These activists have been harassed, threatened and, in one extreme case, even killed.
On August 16, Chaudhary Asghar Fazal, a well-known Christian activist, was murdered by Azizurehman and Muhammad Iqbal, two Muslims, in Village #31 – 10R, located in the Khanewal district of Pakistan’s Punjab province. According to local Christians, Fazal was targeted because of his support for the Christian community.
“My father was murdered for his activism and human rights approach,” Asif Asghar, Fazal’s son, told ICC. “He was a voice for the voiceless and a friend of the oppressed. He was an active voice and passionate worker for the rights of minorities, especially Christians.”
According to Asghar, his father was killed because of his active role in a legal case where local Christians were falsely accused of murdering a Muslim.
“In 2013, local Muslims initiated an attack on Christians which resulted in the Muslims killing one of their own,” Asghar explained. “However, they accused Christians of murdering him.”
According to Asghar, his father worked tirelessly to support the Christians who were facing the false murder charges. “My father was often offered gifts and pressurized to step back,” Asghar remembered. “However, he never valued such stuff. He was even once threatened with blasphemy charges.”
Recently, the local court declared all of the Christians who were falsely accused of the murder innocent. This reportedly enraged the Muslims who had leveled the false charges.
“The group of Muslims [was] not happy with the court decision, so they decided to teach a lesson to my father for supporting and advocating for Christians,” Asghar told ICC. In less than two months, Fazal was murdered. Local police have registered First Information Report (FIR) #407/19 and arrested have the murderers.
“The group of Muslims [was] not happy with the court decision, so they decided to teach a lesson to my father for supporting and advocating for Christians.”
In the Gujranwala district, also in Pakistan’s Punjab province, Nisar James, another Christian activist was brutally beaten and threatened by a group of Muslims on August 13, 2019.
According to James, the attack was perpetrated by a local chapter of the Idara Tul-Mustfa group, a spiritual movement for the circulation of Sharia. James told ICC that the group demanded that Christians in Tergari village vacate their homes so that they could build an Islamic seminary.
“Around 40 Christian families have been settled in the village for over 50 years,” James explained. “As time passed, Muslims also joined the village and built their mosques. Now, an Islamic organization wants the Christians to leave the village; therefore, they often generate disputes with Christians.”
James explained that he got involved in the issue a few years ago when the Muslim organization bulldozed some of the Christian homes in Tergari. Since then, James has been advising the Christian families in court.
During the August 13 attack, James reports that the assailants warned him that he must withdraw the court case. They went on to demand that he obey the head of their organization.
“I am living in fear and my family is always worried for my safety and security,” James told ICC. “However, I will continue my services for the Christian families.”
According to James, the local police twisted the attack when he reported it. According to FIR #765/19, James was the victim of a robbery by unidentified culprits and not an assault by known individuals.
Across Pakistan, Christians face widespread discrimination and persecution. Few are brave enough to stand up for their rights and the rights of their community. With these recent reports, there is a concern that Christian activists are becoming the targets of greater and more deadly violence.
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