Increasing violence against Christians sparks massive exodus of Christians from Pakistan.
There has long been a debate over the authenticity of the persecution of Christians in Pakistan. Various NGO’s, Christian leaders, activists, lawyers and others claim that there has been a sharp rise in the anti-Christian violence against Pakistan’s Christians.
An eminent Pakistani Christian leader, Bishop Alexander John Malik stated that consequent to persecution on religious grounds, more than 100,000 of Pakistani Christians opted to flee to U.N. refugee camps in Thailand, Sri Lanka, Malaysia and the Philippines in the past several years.
It has been established by several credible reports, accounts and narratives that Pakistani Christians actually face discrimination and maltreatment at the hands of the state and Muslim citizens of Pakistan. Accusations of blasphemy have become a custom resulting in anti-Christian attacks or imprisonments. As observed in several cases, Christians’ homes and churches were reduced to ashes as an aftermath of blasphemy accusations. This is not all, Christian girls are abducted and forced to convert to Islam, then forcibly married, reports reveal.
“Christians, along with other religious minorities, find it nearly impossible to get justice from the state when they are harassed or discriminated against,” Bishop Malik said.
It is however, not at all difficult for those having sufficient resources to flee to other Asian countries. Bishop Malik asserted, “People get entry visas at the airports of Sri Lanka and Philippines. To acquire Thai and Malaysian visas isn’t difficult. Moreover, travelling is also not very expensive.”
Kashif Nawab, Former U.N. observer in Pakistan for minorities states that Christians make the third-largest religious community in Pakistan, following Muslims and Hindus. Whereas, they are second-largest in Punjab after Muslims, he revealed.
“There are more than 6 million Christians in Pakistan. Most of them have been extremely vulnerable to allegations of blasphemy. Now, people of this community are seeking sanctuary in U.N. refugee camps after selling their possessions for whatever they can get to leave as soon as possible,” Nawab said.
On the other hand, Pakistan’s State Minister for religious affairs, Muhammad Amin-ul Hasnat Shah, cites mass relocation of Pakistani Christians as an episode of a bigger crisis which will be affecting all Pakistanis.
“It isn’t the first time that minorities are trying to settle down abroad. Muslims who think of insecurity in Pakistan are also trying to acquire immigration in any developed country. The government is trying to resolve security concerns for all citizens, while we can’t force anybody to stay in the country.”