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05/08/2020 Pakistan (International Christian Concern) – Church leaders and human rights activists in Pakistan are speaking out against a video in which an Islamic cleric claims his organization is using COVID-19 food aid to convert non-Muslims to Islam. Pakistani Christians claim this cleric and his organization are misusing the COVID-19 pandemic to abuse Pakistan’s already persecuted religious minorities.

Appearing on Mandi Channel, an Islamic TV channel in Pakistan, an Islamic cleric claims his organization, named Dawat-e-Islami, is converting non-Muslims to Islam using COVID-19 food aid. The cleric specifically brought up an example of a man who recently converted to Islam.

The staff of the organization offered him conversion against food which he accepted,” the cleric claimed. The cleric went on to say the converted man was renamed Muhammad Ramdan and has started following the Islamic ritual of fasting.

Approximately 45% of Pakistan’s population lives below the poverty line, earning most of their income through daily labor jobs. Pakistan’s national lockdown, which started on March 21, has cut off many of these laborers from earning daily wages.

Pakistan’s Christian community has been particularly hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. Due to widespread discrimination and intolerance, Pakistani Christians have been marginalized to the country’s poorest and most vulnerable sections of society. Many Christians depend upon the daily labor jobs which have been curtailed by the lockdown.

In addition to these challenges, reports of Christians being denied desperately needed food aid have come to light. Since the lockdown started, International Christian Concern (ICC) has documented at least four incidents in which Christians were denied food aid because of their religious identity.

Caught in a desperate situation, Christian leaders in Pakistan fear that other Islamic charities will follow the example of Dawat-e-Islami and link religious conversion to aid.

For interviews, please contact Olivia Miller, Communications Coordinator: [email protected].