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“The People of the Book” is Islam’s distinctive name for non-Muslim monotheists such as Jews and Christians. It sounds like a title given to those respected and revered. Unfortunately, the opposite is true. “Protected People,” another such term, sounds so reassuring. Who doesn’t want to be protected? But for the Islamic world’s “Protected People” there is no protection.
Nowhere is this truer than for Pakistan’s tiny minority Christian population. Rather than being protected, Pakistani Christians are disadvantaged and victimized in every way. Dhimmis, treated as second-class citizens, they live with grinding poverty and Muslim contempt, deprived of education and employment opportunities. Vulnerable to threats and lacking the means to defend themselves, they are the inevitable targets of Islamist attacks, even victimized by those who are supposed to protect them, merely because they are Christians.
Christians in northern Pakistan, such as the precarious Afghanistan-bordering Northwest Frontier Territory Province (now Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) and Punjab Province have long suffered and continue to suffer oppression and persecution. But increasingly, Christians in southern Pakistan’s Sindh Province are being persecuted under the “Talibanization” of Karachi. Afghani and Pakistani Pashtun militants that have been flooding Pakistan’s largest city forthe last few years are causing problems for the whole city, but especially for the impoverished, minority Christian community. They and other Islamists subject southern Pakistan’s Christians to horrific violations of their human rights and dignity.
Fleeing from military offenses against the Taliban in the Swat Valley and South Waziristan, the militants have used Karachi’s slum neighborhoods as a place to regroup and raise funds. But they also use their presence in southern Pakistan as an opportunity to attack the Christian community in Sindh Province. Karachi’s Christian poor live in these same slums.
Soon after their arrival in southern Pakistan, the Taliban militants attempted to impose the same Islamic law in Karachi that they had achieved through a “peace agreement” in the Swat Valley. In the spring of 2009, the militants wrote slogans and threats such as “Long live the Taliban” and “Infidels – convert to Islam” on the walls of the churches and houses of Christians in Taiser town, a Karachi community of about 750 Christian families. According to Christian Today, Dr. Nazir Bhatti, the President of the Pakistan Christian Congress, revealed that although for months the Christians had feared an attack was coming and had alerted the police, the police ignored them.
On the evening of April 21, 2009, Christians who were attempting to clean the graffiti off their buildings were attacked by a mob of over 100 masked Taliban gunmen. The gunmen shot into the crowd, seriously wounding three people. One of the shooting victims, 11 year-old Irfan Masih, died from his injuries several days later. As recalled in UnDhimmi, the Pakistan Christian Post reported the gunmen shouted, “You infidels have to convert to Islam or die!” They demanded to know why the Christians had removed the warnings they wrote and declared, “How dare you stage a procession against the Taliban!” Then the militants ransacked and set fire to houses and churches, burning Bibles and beating women in the streets.
Recently, kidnapping and other forms of extortion have become big business for the Pashtun Taliban and other criminal elements in the city. According to BBC News, Karachi police report that “the Taliban are generating funds through bank robberies, protection rackets, and kidnapping.” Even here, the Taliban targets poor Christians, as well as wealthy, influential Muslims. According to grassroots activist for minority rights in Sindh Province, Elvis Steven, such payments – whether for ransom or to a protection racket – are extremely difficult, if not impossible, for most Christians. Few are like Irvin John, a wealthy Catholic layman in Karachi who was kidnapped in early 2011. He paid a ransom and was released unharmed after being held for three weeks.
No ransom demand was made, however, in a more recent kidnapping of two Christian hospital employees in Karachi. In March 2012, Compass Direct News Service reported that Indrias Javaid, 42, the general manager, and Isaac Samson, 26, from the finance office, of South Korean-based Good Samaritan Hospital were taken from the hospital van en route to work by four “fair-skinned” Pashtu-speaking suspects. Police believe that the kidnappers took them to Pakistan’s tribal areas. According to a senior police investigator, “most radical groups believe that Christian NGOs are involved in evangelizing ‘under the guise of charity’ and have been targeted for that reason.”
Pashtun Taliban militants are not the only Islamists attacking Christians in southern Pakistan. Jameel Sawaan was gunned down on the morning of November 16, 2011, when he and his assistant were opening up his cosmetics shop in the Gulshan-e-Iqbal neighborhood. A young man approached and shot the lay evangelist in the neck and the face and then fled on a motorcycle with two other men. Sawaan’s son, Zahid Jameel, told Compass Direct that his father was killed “because of his preaching of the Bible.” “There is no other reason,” he said. He explained that for several years Sawaan had been reaching out to “share the Good News” with people.
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