Pakistan is home to the second largest population of Muslims in the world today. However, Christians make up an important minority in Pakistan accounting for approximately 1.6% of the country’s citizenship.
Sadly, though Pakistan’s constitution guarantees religious freedom, Christians endure some of the most horrendous persecution on earth. Open Doors’ World Watch List, (ODWWL) is an organization which ranks countries according to their human rights violations against Christians. Currently it classifies Pakistan as the eighth worst in the world. Since 2002, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom also has considered Pakistan’s cruel conduct toward Christians of grave concern and equal to that of North Korea, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia.
Pakistan’s blasphemy laws are notorious and pose a dire threat to the well-being of religious minorities. The Islamic laws stipulate that anyone who defames the name of the Prophet Muhammad or the Quran must be punished with life imprisonment or death.
In 2010, Asia Bibi, a Christian from Pakistan’s Punjab state, became the first woman in Pakistan’s history to be sentenced to die for her alleged crime of blasphemy. Her case has been highly publicized. Yet she awaits execution on death row, after her appeal to the Pakistani High Court was turned down. (see ODWWL website)
Pakistan’s blasphemy laws are often seized upon to settle personal scores or incite communal violence. This illegitimate high jacking of the law, often fosters false allegations. Unfortunately, because of extreme Muslim social pressure, the accused will almost always be declared guilty. From the time the law was established in 1987, over 1,300 people, including many non-Muslims, have been indicted for blasphemy, and more than 50 have been murdered without standing trial.
Pakistani churches are vandalized and Christians are kidnapped, beaten, raped, and murdered with near impunity. The abduction, forced marriage, and forced conversion of young Christian girls by Muslim men, is a horrifying reality. The Movement for Solidarity and Peace estimates that as many as 700 young women are abused in this way each year. Education and employment discrimination also isolate and trap Christians in Pakistan’s lower echelons.