Over 100 Christian Families Denied Food Aid Amid COVID-19 Crisis in Pakistan
04/07/2020 Pakistan (International Christian Concern) – International Christian Concern (ICC) has documented another instance of Pakistani Christians being turned away from an aid distribution because of their religious identity. This marks the third incident of discrimination documented by ICC since Pakistan has gone into lockdown in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
On Sunday, April 5, more than 100 Christian families from Sandha Kalan village, located in the Kasur district of Pakistan’s Punjab province, were excluded from a distribution of food aid. Shahakeel Ahmed, a local Muslim and human rights defender, told ICC that Sheikh Abdul Haleem Hamid, a cleric at the local mosque, decided that the food aid would be distributed to only Muslim families.
The aid, collected by a village management committee and mostly made up of foodstuffs, was reportedly designed to be distributed among all the deserving families of the village. However, when the aid was distributed, Sheikh Hamid did not allow even a single Christian family to receive aid.
Ahmed reportedly protested against this discrimination and raised his voice against the decision made by the cleric. However, these protests went unheard.
“I condemn this inhumane and discriminatory act by my Muslim village fellows and stand in solidarity with the poor Christian population of the village,” Ahmed told ICC. “Therefore a group of like-minded individuals are collecting donations from liberal Muslims to extend foodstuff to this vulnerable segment; the Christians of this country.”
Since March 21, most of Pakistan has been placed on lockdown as authorities seek to slow the spread of COVID-19. However, this national lockdown has significantly affected the country’s poor and vulnerable communities. This includes Pakistan’s religious minorities.
Approximately 45% of Pakistan’s total population live below the poverty line, earning most of their income through daily labor jobs. The national lockdown has cut off many of these laborers from earning daily wages and reports of starvation are already circulating.
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