UK urged to act over persecution of Pakistani Christians

New book gathers evidence to show that religious freedom is still under attack in the Muslim nation
UK urged to act over persecution of Pakistani Christians

Catholics pray as they attend a special New Year service at St. Anthony's Church in Lahore on Jan. 1. (Photo: AFP)

The British Asian Christian Association (BACA) has published a book documenting how Christians continue to be persecuted throughout Pakistan.

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

Written by Desmond Fernandes, the book titled Call it by its name: Persecution! paints a horrific picture of the treatment of Christians based on concrete evidence.

BACA trustee Juliet Chowdhry said the book found that the British government 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 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.

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 British 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 (the United Nations' refugee agency) 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.

This secret list, human rights lawyer Shahram Taghavi points out, "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 is a human rights advocacy group set up in the wake of the Gojra massacre of Christians in Pakistan in 2009.

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