“Christians around the world suffer persecution at the hands of both state and non-state actors. Among the state actors are Islamist, Communist, religious nationalist, and secular regimes, while non-state actors include violent religious extremists,” a recent report titled “In Response to Persecution,” states. The study was carried under the project titled “Under Caesar’s Sword.”
Under Caesar’s Sword researchers have carried out an extensive study on how Christians respond to persecution? The report defines persecution as: “Persecution in the religious sense always involves a severe violation of the human right to religious freedom.”
Further detailed:”It is guaranteed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the United Nations Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and other major international legal conventions, the human right to religious freedom declares the moral and civic immunity of individuals and religious communities from coercion or violence on account of their religious beliefs and practice.”
It protects their structures of governance, their property, their schools, their charities, the public communication of their message, and their contributions to the political life of their respective societies, especially in matters touching upon justice and the common good.”
The report portrays a dire situation of Christians in Pakistan. “Christians in Pakistan, about 2 percent of the population, suffer heavily from discrimination, the pressure of religious conversion, and abuses connected with the country’s draconian blasphemy law.
Persecution comes from both regime and society. Founded in 1947, Pakistan was declared an Islamic republic in its first constitution in 1956 and saw the sharp growth of heavily Islamist laws beginning in the 1970s—a legal framework that encourages the maltreatment of Christians as well as of Shia and Ahmadiyya Muslims.”
The report further explains ongoing religion based discrimination stating: “In part, the maltreatment of Christians takes place through discrimination. The majority of Pakistani Christians are Protestant, hailing from Punjab, and low-caste, consigned to menial jobs in the sanitation industry and as domestic staff. A smaller community of Catholics are middle-class. Low-caste Christians suffer heavy discrimination, in which caste identity and religious membership reinforce each other; women are treated especially poorly.”
The report further pin pointed two major dynamics of persecution Pakistani Christians are facing .i.e. forced conversations and misuse of blasphemy law. “Christians are also subject to forced conversions. An estimated 1,800 cases per year are reported of Christian girls who are kidnapped and forced to “convert” and “marry” their Muslim captors.
Christians, like Muslims, are regularly prosecuted under Pakistan’s blasphemy law, which was revised in 1991 to carry the death penalty.” The report made special mention of Asia Bibi- a Pakistani Christian woman on death row. “The case of Asia Bibi, a young Christian woman who was sentenced to death in 2010 for allegedly insulting the Prophet Muhammad, was internationally protested.
While her death sentence has not yet been approved by the superior court, she remains in prison. Two government officials were assassinated for speaking out on her behalf and against the blasphemy law: Salman Taseer, Governor of Punjab, and Shahbaz Bhatti, Pakistan’s first Federal Minister for Minorities Affairs.”