Wednesday, May 30, 2007

And across the border ...

Ruth Gledhill has a summary on the situation of Christians in Pakistan. While there are serious challenges faced by India's Christians, the situation in Pakistan is, easily, much much worse.
Pakistan's Christians are facing renewed persecution in the country. This month Christians in the North West Frontier Province region of the country were sent threats of "dire consequences and bomb attacks" if they didn't "embrace" Islam within 10 days. An 84-year old Christian was the latest to be imprisoned under the blasphemy laws, his house was seized to be turned into a Madrassah and his wife forced to convert to Islam by saying the Sunni Islamic creed.
On the day of the deadline this notice, signed by the "Taliban's Denotative Department", appeared posted on the door of the church. It repeated the threats made 10 days before. The police say they have caught the perpetrator, an 11-year-old boy. But Mr Bhatti says when the Christians asked the boy to write something to cross check his hand writing with the letters, the policeman said "this is not a school lesson".

1 comment:

Mac said...

Of course this is hardly surprising in NWFP, where Taliban-like extremism has been the order of the day for a long time: it is difficult even to be a moderate, traditional Pakistani Muslim there, much less a Christian or, one supposes, a Hindu, though one wonders if there are any Hindus there. It is a great irony in historical terms: the Christians of that part of pre-Partition India which is now Pakistan overwhelmingly voted in favour of acceding to post-Partition Pakistan rather than India in 1947, considering that they would be much better off under Muslims than under Hindus!

The Christians of my acquaintance are all in Sindh and they generally bear Muslim versions of biblical names (eg Haroon for Aaron; Suleiman for Solomon; Samial and Danial for Samuel and Daniel) and have paid visits to the barber to have the anatomical indicia of not being Muslim surgically removed for safety's sake. However, the "moderate" -- ie either secular of traditional Sufi -- Muslims of my acquaintance all write NWFP off as the den of lunatic extremists and are more concerned about the pograms in Christian villages and bomb attacks on churches that occur in Punjab, of all places, where Muslim women go about unveiled even in the villages and, on spotting a "Frank" (!) like me, proceed to pose for photos.

Avoiding the blasphemy laws is problemmatic when dealing with extremists since to subscribe to the creeds and the Bible is impliedly to deny that there are any prophets later than Jesus.

Propounding democracy is also problemmatic, pacePresident Bush & Co: religious minorities have always fared much better when military dictators have ruled and have been able to strong-arm aside the vox populi with respect to intolerance of non-Muslims. "Freedom," after all, can mean freedom to persecute. And the people of NWFP have freely elected an extremist, Saudi-admiring (and considerably funded) provincial government.