Children raped and tortured, families extorted, abuse and violence taking place at the expense of terrified victims who remain silent: this is the reality of what is happening to the Christian community in some suburban quarters of Karachi, Southern Pakistan’s biggest city and the capital of the Sindh province.
Speaking to Catholic news agency Fides, Michael Shind, working in Pakistan’s Sindh province, gave a shocking statement condemning the situation for Christians in the Country. Jave, warned that for months now, Christians in the areas of EssaNagri, Ayub Goth and Bhittaiabad, have suffered indescribable violence perpetrated by members of political movements, such as the Pashtuns, which are characterised by a strong ethnic and Islamic identity. Christian families are going through living hell but “people are not reporting the abuse for fear of retaliation.”
Just last month, Javed told Fides, “We recorded 15 cases of rape.” In EssaNagri there are real “torture cells” where Christian children are imprisoned and tortured. “Captors ask for ransoms of up to 100.000 rupees and if families cannot pay, the little ones are tortured until they are beyond recognition.” The result of the violence that has been going on over the past six months is that numerous families have decided to leave Karachi. “These acts of violence are aimed at eliminating Christian presence in the area; it constitutes a kind of ethnic cleansing: we are seen as slaves who are unworthy of setting foot on Pakistani soil.”
In another case reported, a so-called “house of tolerance” was opened near a Catholic Church in Ayub Goth where “Christian girls from destitute families are forced into prostitution.” Although the authorities have been made aware of this, they have not taken any action yet. Javed is launching an appeal to ask “for an end to the oppression of our community.”
What is more, the controversial blasphemy law continues to provoke disputes and attract criticism in Pakistan and internationally, while the situation for religious minorities is very serious. They are suffering as a result of the rising extremism of Islamic fundamentalist groups. As reported by Fides, the numbers of people against whom charges have been pressed for allegedly committing blasphemy are shocking. In 2011, the blasphemy law (articles 295b and 295c of the Penal Code) led to at least 161 people being incriminated and 9 killed in extrajudicial executions after they were accused of blasphemy. These accusations “are false in 95% of cases,” says one Muslim lawyer, who wished to remain anonymous for security reasons.
According to a Report by the Asian Human Rights Commission, a human rights watch NGO operative in Asia, “Pakistan failed to guarantee respect for the human rights of its people.” The Commission documented the killings of 18 human rights defenders and 16 journalists in 2011. They had been involved in a process of denouncing evil in society, corruption and Islamic extremism. (Vatican Insider, Jan. 2012)