Call to act over persecution of Pakistani Christians

PAKISTAN (UCAN): The British Asian Christian Association (BACA) published, Call it by its name: Persecution! a book documenting how Christians continue to be persecuted throughout Pakistan. Written by Desmond Fernandes, the book paints a horrific picture of the treatment of Christians based on concrete evidence.

BACA has also written to Britain’s members of parliament calling on them to take action to help stop the attacks on religious freedom in the Muslim-majority nation.

Association trustee, Juliet Chowdhry, said the book found that the government of the United Kingdom (UK) was reluctant to openly acknowledge the extent of persecution against Christians or to leverage its political influence with the Pakistan government in support of Christians.

Many were at a loss to understand why the country guidance used by the British Home Office in deciding asylum cases classes the situation in Pakistan as discrimination rather than persecution, while there was universal criticism about the apparent unwillingness of the UK government to offer Asia Bibi asylum.

A Catholic woman, Bibi started a new life in Canada last year after being acquitted of a trumped-up blasphemy charge following eight years on death row.

BACA claims that the Home Office “has scandalously disregarded the views, opinions and conclusions of key human rights organisations, academics, parliamentarians and Pakistan assembly members, public interest bodies, Church organisations and community representatives, investigative journalists and lawyers that have explicitly concluded that Christians in Pakistan face extreme levels of persecution.”

It added: “The consequences of such flawed Home Office guidance are distressing: Many persecuted Pakistani Christian asylum seekers are being denied refugee status and deported back to Pakistan where their lives remain at risk because UK and UNHCR (United Nations’ High Commissioner for Refugees) decision makers are drawing upon this entirely misleading Home Office guidance to arrive at their refugee status determinations.”

The book claims there is a specific UK government immigration policy that explicitly discriminates against nationals from Pakistan by placing them on a secret list.

Human rights lawyer, Shahram Taghavi, points out the secret list “not only offends against the established fundamental human rights principle of not discriminating on the grounds of nationality or race but also violates a cardinal principle of the rule of law, the principle that laws must be accessible to citizens.”

BACA was set up in the wake of the Gojra massacre of Christians in Pakistan in 2009.

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