Christians in Pakistan can face horrific abuse and discrimination by their Muslim neighbors as well as the authorities. Common tactics included making false charge of blasphemy, a crime for which, if convicted, entails the death penalty. Christian women are often abducted, raped and/or forcibly married. Their families usually never see them again. The following are a sample of incidents that illustrate the perils of being a Christian in Pakistan today:
1. Blasphemy Charges Condemn Parents to Death
A Christian couple, parents of four children, was booked on charges of sending blasphemous text messages to an Islamic cleric. Both have been given the death sentence. Authorities claim the number on the SIM card was registered to the husband.
However, the couple says the phone, along with the SIM card, was lost in early 2013. An official with World Vision in Progress, an organization defending the couple, says the only evidence of the “crime” the authorities have is a bill for a SIM card from an unknown shop.
The husband, who is paralyzed from the waist down, admitted to the crime under severe torture. “There is no man who can stand to see his wife being tortured by police, so to save my wife, I confessed,” he said.
Meanwhile, the husband has developed live-threatening bed sores in the jail where he is being held and fears that he may not survive the ordeal.
2. Pakistani Police Consider Abduction and Forced Marriage ‘Legitimate’
A Christian mother of three was abducted by her employer and forcibly married to him. An appeal to authorities by the family, all of whom work as bonded servants to the same employer, fell on deaf ears. The case was eventually referred to a local imam who ruled that the marriage was legitimate. After six months of captivity, the family was able to devise an escape plan through the help of a secret phone.
The woman, 36-year-old Fouzia Sadiq was whisked to a safe house run by the British Pakistani Christian Association. Saqdiq’s employer responded to the escape by accusing her of stealing gold jewelry. Police visited Sadiq’s house and said they will arrest a family member if Sadiq is not returned to the employer.
To date, BPCA has been able to move two members of Sadiq’s family to the safe house.
3. Pakistani Christians Told to Convert to Receive Flood Aid
Christians left homeless due to devastating flooding last summer in Pakistan were offered a choice by Muslim charities providing for victims: convert to Islam or become bonded servants, essentially a form of modern-day slavery.
Floods that hit the Kasur region in Pakistan in August washed away thousands of homes, including those of more than 60 Christian families. While the Muslims left homeless were provided with temporary shelter, clean water and food by the government and Muslim charities, the Christians were not.
4. Pakistani Christian Couple Burned Alive in Trumped up Charges of Blasphemy
A young Christian couple, parents of four small children and with another on the way, was burned alive by a mob in Pakistan in seemingly trumped up charges of blasphemy. Relatives of the couple say the real issue was a monetary dispute involving the couple’s employers.
The incident was started by a rumor that pages with several verses of the Quran were burned by the wife after being left behind by the wife’s deceased father, after which a local mullah made a public ruling that the couple was guilty of blasphemy.
A mob of about 500 people – included Muslims from neighboring villages — began forming. Relatives began to flee, including the couple’s children, but the couple was unable to escape. The mob attacked the building in which they had barricaded themselves, broke the door down and started beating them.
“They broke their legs so they couldn’t run and then threw them in the fire (in a kiln at the brick factory where they worked),” said Mushtaq Gill, chief advocate at Pakistani minority rights group Legal Evangelical Association Development (LEAD). “Only some bones and hair were found at the site.”
5. Parents of 12-Year Old Kidnapped, Raped Daughter Face Charges for Not Returning Their Daughter to Her Captor
A 12-year-old Christian girl was abducted in Pakistan by militant Islamists, where she was raped over the course of eight months. Although the girl escaped, the police have refused to arrest the rapists who are known for their affiliation with a militant Muslim organization. Police have also refused to order a medical check of the girl.
Since one of the rapists claims that he is married to the girl, police have told her parents that they had better hand the girl over to her “legal” husband or a criminal case would be filed against them.