Pakistani Christians demand equal rights, abolition of blasphemy laws

Geneva [Switzerland]: Pakistani Christians living in Europe and the United Kingdom gathered in front of Palais Wilson, the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva, and demanded justice and equal rights for the minorities in Pakistan.

Holding placards which read “Save Pakistani Christians”, “Stop Human Rights Violations against Christians in Pakistan” and “Abolish Blasphemy Laws in Pakistan”, they shouted slogans against the Pakistan government to demand justice for Asia Bibi, a victim of Blasphemy law.

They also carried out a protest march from Palais Wilson to Broken Chair in front of Palace of Nations, to make people aware about the persecution of Christians and other minorities in Pakistan by the state and non-state actors.

The event was held during the ongoing 39th Session of the UN Human Rights Council.

Advocate Qamar Shams, President of the International Christian Council, said, “The situation is quite serious and is going from bad to worse because it’s happening all the time. Hardly a day passes when you don’t hear a new case of persecution. And persecution in different ways – it’s not persecution of blasphemy laws – it is social persecution, it is economic persecution and at the moment what the condition in Pakistan is of the minorities and particularly the Christians that they have been made to believe that they are not equal human beings. They are not equal citizens, they don’t have equal rights, they don’t have equal opportunities in jobs and government official positions, in the army, in navy and in the air force.”

“Lately, there were ads in the newspapers which said that the job of a sweeper is specifically for Christians and only Christians need to apply. At the moment they (Christians) have been made mentally upset and convinced to believe that they are inferior and meant to do dirty jobs,” said Shams.

Anjum Iqbal, a Pakistani Christian based in Amsterdam, who joined the protest, said: “We are in minority and demand equal rights. There are several other issues which members of our community are facing in Pakistan. The major issue is injustice, which should not happen to any Christian, a Hindu or a person of some other religion. We demand equal rights”.

Talking about the forced marriages and religious conversion of Christian women, he added, “There are many Christian girls, who have been kidnapped and forcibly converted to Islam. If she agrees to live with a Muslim then she will be alive, if she denies their demand, she gets killed. This is a major issue Christian girls have been facing.”

The cause of Pakistani Christians was supported by the Members of European Parliament who have asked Pakistan to protect the rights of the minorities in the country.

Tomas Zdechovsky, Member of the European Parliament, said: “The situation is very critical and we have to open the issue of Pakistani Christians with the government. It is an unacceptable situation and we will do our maximum to change the situation”.

“If the Pakistan government does not agree to a dialogue, we have to take action. But first, it should be a dialogue with the new Pakistani government and if it will not happen then the government has to take responsibility for that.”

Henri Malosse, former President of European Economic and Social Committee, said: “Today, Pakistan is benefitting from European Trade policy. Pakistan is benefiting from what we call GSP+ (Generalised System of Preferences), the trade preferences which allow Pakistan to supply goods free of any duty – textile and other products. But, it has a condition to protect human rights and protection of minorities. And as you hear today, Pakistan government is not respecting this condition because of discrimination, slavery, blasphemy law. So we will ask political groups to stop this trade preference as long as Pakistan is not respecting the human rights and minority rights in its own country”.

Gyorgy Holvenyi, a Member of European Parliament, while talking about the misuse of blasphemy law against minorities in Pakistan, said: “We have done a kind of resolution that declares that blasphemy law is against the religious minorities. The majority tries to blame Christians and other minorities, this is unacceptable. If Pakistan wants close relations with Europe, they have to take the consequences. European Parliamentarians shouldn’t be lecturing the Pakistan government; they have to do their own homework”.

A film and a poster campaign were also launched in Geneva to make people aware about the condition of Christians in Pakistan.