All Christians—-please leave Pakistan!
By Muhammad Akbar Notezai
In our 7th grade textbook there is a lesson on how to invite a Christian to convert to Islam. If this is the case how we can we learn to have tolerance when we grow up?
On 22 September, two suicide bombers brutally attacked the All Saints Church of Peshawar. Eighty-one Christian worshippers, including 37 women, were killed and 170 were critically injured. It is reputed to be the deadliest attack on the Christian community in Pakistan to date.
Surprisingly, only two policemen were on duty to provide for the security of 600 Christian worshippers. This contributed to the ease with which suicide bombers carrying hand-grenades and pistols entered the church to ruthlessly target the congregation. As well it demonstrates the government’s inability to provide adequate security for the Christian worshippers as well as a careless attitude towards minorities. After the deadly attack,Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) spokesman Sahidullah Shahid spoke on the phone to the BBC Urdu service, saying that the suicide attack against the Christian parishioners was in accordance with the Shariah. He did not claim responsibility for the attack.
It is worth mentioning that the tiny population of Christians, only two per cent of Pakistan’s 180 million population, lives constantly in fear. Because of Pakistan’s strict and rigorous blasphemy laws, Christians have allegedly been accused of committing blasphemy. Christians also complain about the attitude of local Muslims who desecrate their churches and burn their houses on the pretext of blasphemy. For instance, on March 9, 2013, an enraged Muslim mob attacked the Joseph Colony in Lahore, Pakistan, torching more than 200 houses and two churches. The alleged reason for the attack was Sawan Masih alias Bodhi, who quarreled with his Muslim friend, Shahid Imran, a local barber. Although both of them drank together, in an argument, Shahid Imam falsely accused the Christian man, Sawan Masih of making blasphemous remarks.
In 2001, Christians were assaulted in Bahawalpur and Islamabad.
In 2002, Christians were assaulted three times: firstly, on August 9, 2002, Muslim gunmen threw hand grenades on the grounds of the Taxila Christian Hospital in northern Punjab, which killed four, including two nurses and a paramedic, and wounded 25 men and women. Secondly, on September 25, 2002, unidentified Muslim gunmen shot to death six Christians at a Christian charity in Karachi. Thirdly, on December 25, 2002, two burka-clad Muslim gunmen threw a grenade into a Christian church that killed three girls during a Christian sermon in Chianwala in East Pakistan.
In 2005, hundreds of Christians had to leave their houses in Faisalabad when one of the Christian residents was blamed for burning the pages of Holy Qur’an. After that, a Muslim mob set ablaze Christians’ houses and schools in the Faisalabad town.
In 2009, a mob burned 40 Christian houses and killed 7 in the Gojra town of Punjab province, after rumors that a copy of the Holy Quran had been desecrated during a Christian marriage ceremony.
On January 4, 2011 ,Salman Taseer, the former governor of Punjab, was assassinated by his security guard Mumtaz Qadri. Salman supported Asia Bibi a Christian woman accused of blasphemy. Many Muslim clerics gave fatwa not to mourn and not to
attend Salman Taseer’s funeral prayer due to his opposition to Pakistan’s blasphemy law and terming it a black law.
In March 2011, the former Minister for Minorities, Shahbaz Bhatti, was gunned down in the Sector 1-8/3, Islamabad. He was an advocate of amending the blasphemy laws.
In August 2012, Rimsha Masih, a Christian girl, was accused of committing blasphemy by a cleric, Khalid Jadoon Chisti. She was soon found guiltless and released. However the cleric did not face trial for false accusations against the helpless girl. She was fortunate enough to flee to Canada. Otherwise, she would have been targeted.
It seems that Christians are “unwanted” and “undesirable” in Pakistan. They are considered unequal citizens and are treated like low class citizens. We even teach our school-going children that Christians are anti-Islam. In our 7th grade textbook there is a lesson on how to invite a Christian to convert to Islam. If this is the case how we can we learn to have tolerance when we grow up?