News Analysis |
On January 15th 2018, the authorities decided to ban service in unauthorized churches in Abbottabad. The security officials stated that this decision had been taken for security reasons. This decision was taken as a precautionary measure after the most recent church bombing that took place in Quetta on December 19th 2017 at the Bethel Memorial Methodist Church.
This terrorist attack on the church resulted in the death of 11 people, leaving more than 50 people injured. Officials have now banned service in 6 unauthorized residential compounds which were being utilized as churches. They also stated that 100-200 people gathered for service at these churches without any formal notification to the police.
In December 19th 2017, Pakistani Christians were face to face with another horrific attack that took place at the Methodist Church in Quetta, killing 11 people and injuring more than 50.
The security of the Christian minorities hangs in a precarious balance in Pakistan where their lives and faith are constantly under threat. The officials informed the concerned parties that an alternative was also presented in the form of notices that were given to the local Christian community to either register the unauthorized churches with the Auqaf Foundation or attend religious service at the 3 main authorized churches that were provided security 24 hours around the clock.
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The various issues faced by our religious minorities on every social, political and economic front can now be categorized as outright human rights violations as opposed to being mere discrimination. The United States has recently put Pakistan on a Special Watch List that includes countries who do not guarantee and safeguard religious freedom for their minorities. Even though the placement on that list is politically motivated, it highlights an issue that Pakistan does have to address to safeguard minorities.
Statistics that have been collected by local human rights groups demonstrate that 964 persons have been accused under blasphemy laws that are misused and misinterpreted to torture innocent civilians who belong to any faith other than Islam. Although minorities only constitute 3% of the population, more than half the victims of these blasphemy allegations, murders and lynching incidents are either Ahmadis, Christians or Hindus.
One of the worst attacks against minorities in Pakistan’s history took place in March 2016 in Lahore when a blast by the TTP killed over 70 people and injured over 350 people while Christians had collected to celebrate Easter
Since 2013, various acts of violence in the form of arsenal, suicide bombings and physical torture have affected the Christian community in Pakistan. The situation becomes more gory and irresolvable when the constitution is brought into the landscape of the problem because in text form, the constitution of 1973 mentions that the state of Pakistan recognizes the fundamental rights of every citizen irrespective of their race, creed, color and religion.
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The state also purports to recognize the safeguarding of the religious beliefs of all citizens of Pakistan. However the ambiguity and open ended nature of the Blasphemy laws allows members of the Christian community to be convicted of blasphemy without the burden of evidence. Pakistan’s history is now smeared with the blood of the Christian minorities with bomb blasts and lynching, killing and violence, all of which dominate and destroy their lives.
In 2013, there was a double suicide bombing that took place at a church in Peshawar. This bomb blast took place a few months after the unbelievable tragedy of Joseph Colony in which 3000 protestors stormed into a Christian colony in Lahore setting 100 houses on fire. In 2015, 15 people were killed with more than 70 injured when the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) attacked churches in Lahore located in the Youhanabad Neighborhood which was home to more than 100,000 Christians.
The various issues faced by our religious minorities on every social, political and economic front can now be categorized as outright human rights violations as opposed to being mere discrimination.
One of the worst attacks against minorities in Pakistan’s history took place in March 2016 in Lahore when a blast by the TTP killed over 70 people and injured over 350 people while Christians had collected to celebrate Easter. In December 19th 2017, Pakistani Christians were face to face with another horrific attack that took place at the Methodist Church in Quetta, killing 11 people and injuring more than 50.
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Keeping the current situation of the Christian minorities in mind, with hundreds of them being targeted, attacked, lynched and tortured there is an urgent need to reevaluate the way the state treats its minorities for leaving aside the legally binding clauses of the constitution, the suppression and marginalization of these minorities should rest heavy on our conscience as a nation. Is the ban on the unauthorized churches really for security purposes or is this another way to repress an already mistreated minority?