Islamabad: Pakistani Christians are being persecuted for US drone attacks on Islamic militants hiding in Pakistan’s tribal areas bordering Afghanistan, according to community members.
The Christian minority, which accounts for an estimated one percent of Pakistan’s 170 million population, says it is targeted by Muslims because its faith is strongly associated with the United States.
“When America does a drone strike, they come and blame us. They think we belong to America. It’s a simple mentality,” Fox News quoted Faisal Massi, a 25-year old student from Sau Quarter, a Christian colony in Islamabad, as saying.
Sau Quarter residents described how their relatives in outlying villages- especially near the tribal areas where Islamic fundamentalism prevails- often find themselves in physical confrontation with Sunni and Shi’ite Muslims enraged by the missiles strikes that have claimed the lives of at least 600 citizens in recent years.
“Christian villagers are verbally abused in public and harassed in the street by groups of Muslim youths,” Massi said.
Christians now do not receive the kind of protections from the democratic government that they once did under the former dictator Pervez Musharraf, who had ordered dedicated police patrols for churches across the country during the early rise of Islamic fundamentalists, well before 9/11.
“The government is under pressure from fundamentalists. We are worried we have become unprotected. There is a deficit of protection, especially in the case of the blasphemy law. It has become frightful that we cannot express our ideas due to fear of death,” said Dr Nelson Azeem, the vice-president of the National Council of Churches in an interview with Fox News last month.
Massi agreed, describing what he said was his greatest nightmare: “We are losing our supporters. If we decided to protests in numbers someone will come along, click the button on their suicide belt and blow us up.”
First Published: Sunday, April 24, 2011, 15:21