Global Independent Analytics

Pakistan attack: How the Christian minority lives

Protests by the Christian community against deadly attacks that have killed and injured hundreds of people only led to more violence rather than security

Saima Mohsin for CNN discusses the causes and reasons of an exceptional violence directed towards Christian society in Pakistan.

The area of Youhanabad on the outskirts of the town of Lahore, being the most densely-populated Christian neighborhood, has experienced most violent attacks targeting Catholic and Protestant believers over the past years. Eventually, the situation got so bad that even the volunteers could not head to a church without being heavily armed.

Mohsin adds: “Pastor Shakeel Anjum, who leads the Children's Chapel Church, just buried six members of his congregation in one day. They were killed in the bombing of an amusement park in Lahore on Easter Sunday.

A ruthless Taliban splinter group that vows to attack soft targets claimed responsibility for the assault and said that it was targeting Christians. But families from various faith communities were there, and more Muslims were killed than Christians.”

This year the Pastor did not have the heart to call his congregation to protest; in fact, his concerns were that mass funeral could have attracted even more extremist attacks. "Our people are very poor, they barely have enough to eat every day -- they can't afford the time to protest these attacks," he added.

Over the recent year, Pakistani Christians have suffered greatly from terrorist attacks. March 2013, 100 homes were set on fire after a Christian man was blamed for speaking out against the Muslim prophet Mohammad. Same year, September, 81 killed and 100 wounded in twin explosion. March 2016, 72 killed, 300 injured in a terrible attack in a park. Taliban’s extremists claimed responsibility and said they specifically targeted Christians. Their reasons, say analysts, may vary from religious propaganda to a way of division of Pakistani society on a religious basis.

Anjum says: "We really need the support of the Muslims of Pakistan and the government. As Christian citizens, we love and pray for Pakistan" and it is essential that Pakistani of all religions show support and solidarity.

However, not only attacks force Pakistani Christians feel miserable and suppressed; many say mundane aspects of daily life leave them feeling isolated and neglected. That is perfectly demonstrated by the fact that the local government is ignorant to the needs of a Christian settlement near the graveyard where the Easter attack victims were buried. "Where else can we go?" argue the impoverished Christian community -- the majority live on the edge of society, deprived of an education, struggling to find jobs and unable to afford living elsewhere.

“There are many areas like this across Pakistan, not necessarily Christian-majority areas, but where impoverished Muslims live too. But nationwide it's the widespread discrimination against religious minorities, and in this case Christians, that frequently impacts peoples' lives.

Christian monitoring group, World Watch Monitor, points to the overwhelming number of Christians employed as sanitary workers in major cities -- as much as 80% in the city of Peshawar. This is not a coincidence.

One recent advert for sanitary workers clearly says it's looking for non-Muslims to clean toilets. The ad was later retracted,” continues Anjum.

After the recent terrorist attack, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said in a statement that the security officials will put forth every effort into protecting every citizen. However, minority rights activists say that says the military crackdown is irrelevant if mindsets do not change. "What about the beast within us? What about the beast that is within our houses and our society? If we do not address those problems, this military operation will be a waste."

Analysts say that the Pakistani authorities have prepared conditions for extremists and assert that the roots of radicalization are in Pakistan biased laws: for instance when religious minorities get gradually removed from history textbooks, there is no way for the society to know about the existence of these diverse cultures and their meaning to the country.

“Pakistan's strict blasphemy laws have often been manipulated to persecute minorities, including Christians.

In 2014, a Christian couple accused of desecrating the Quran was beaten by a mob, then pushed into a burning brick kiln.

And in 2011, in a highly publicized case, Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian mother of five, was sentenced to death for blasphemy.

Salman Taseer, the Muslim governor of Punjab, was one of the few people to speak out in support of Bibi, and call for the death sentence to be revoked. He was gunned down by his own guard in 2011. In a bizarre and shocking twist, his guard was hailed as a hero. Even after being hanged for murder earlier this year, his funeral prayers were attended by thousands,” assumes Anium.

More than ten thousands of people, who have been protesting against changing the blasphemy laws, have already dispersed; the government formally accepted their requests, but that palpable sense of unease still holds, and the same question lingers: is the state prepared to tackle this threat to Pakistan's diversity and long-term security?

 

By Stefan Paraber for GIA.

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