UK Government Urged in a Report to Recognise “Real Risk of Persecution” of Pakistani Christians

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A demonstrator burns a cross during a protest in the Badami Bagh area of Lahore
A demonstrator burns a cross during a protest in the Badami Bagh area of Lahore March 9, 2013. An enraged mob torched dozens of houses located in a Christian-dominated neighbourhood of Lahore on Saturday, local media reported. REUTERS/Adrees Hassain

UK Government Urged to Recognise “Real Risk of Persecution” of Pakistani Christians in a Report

Lord Alton, a cross-bench member of the House of Lords, has called on the British government to accept the “reality” of the persecution of Christians in Pakistan, as a report launched today finds UK government policy on
Pakistani religious minorities to be inadequate.

Lord David Alton was speaking at the launch of an All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) report he was a part of.

He said that he visited the refugee camps in Thailand Pakistani Christians are living in and where they “are kept in degrading conditions” and “left to fester” while their asylum applications took years to process.

Alton said Home Office guidance was used to justify this treatment because Christians fleeing Pakistan are not at “a real risk of persecution”, according to the government’s country information.

Referring to his conversations with them, Lord Alton told Premier: “People told me about how their homes had been burnt down, their churches had been bombed, people had been raped.

“We heard stories of forced conversion. It was a litany of horror.”

“Pakistan is the biggest recipient of British aid – more than £1 billion in the last couple of years – and we should be demanding that British aid is used to protect minorities and to staunch the flow of refugees,” he added.

The report was compiled using the evidence of over 20 organisations, lawyers and academics working on the right to freedom of religion or belief in Pakistan.

Under Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, a person can be sentenced to death for insulting the Prophet Muhammad. The laws are often used to target Christians.

If Britain was to change it’s default stance, it could lead to greater pressure being put on Pakistani authorities to change the country’s blasphemy laws and better protect minorities.

It could also lead to more suffering Pakistani Christians being granted asylum, and for those processes to be handled more quickly.