Saturday 2nd March I attended in London the protest against discrimination and persecution of Pakistani Christians.
Organized by the British Pakistani Christian Association, it included the presentation of a petition both to London's Pakistani Embassy and to the British Prime Minister's residence in 10 Downing Street. Several religious figures and human rights campaigners were speakers at the demonstration.
A Peace Rally and Memorial Concert in Trafalgar Square followed, in memory of Shahbaz Bhatti, the Roman Catholic man who was Pakistan's first Minister for Minorities Affairs from 2008 until Muslim extremists assassinated him in 2011 for his work to abolish the country's blasphemy law which has been used to persecute faith minorities. He was the only Christian in the government.
Minister Bhatti had received repeated death threats for his consistent defence of the rights of Pakistan's religious minorities and for his fight for the abolition of Pakistan’s shameful blasphemy laws, which mandate the death sentence for anyone thought to have spoken ill of Muhammad or to have in any way offended Muslim sensitivities: the standard of accepted evidence is very low, and intent or lack of it is not a consideration in passing the sentence.
Two months before the assassination of Bhatti, another man campaigning for the same cause, Provincial Governor Salman Taseer, had been killed by his own bodyguard, who for his crime was welcomed as a hero by many Pakistani Muslims.
Saturday's event, like a similar one in 2012, commemorated the anniversary of Shahbaz Bhatti's assassination on 2 March 2011 outside his home in Islamabad.
Constantly Pakistani Christians are killed for their faith, or other atrocities are committed against them, like the rape of a Christian 2-year-old girl because her father refused to convert to Islam.
The situation of Christians in Pakistan is dire. Recently a Christian 19-year-old boy, Mard-e-Khuda, living in the Bahawalpur district, was barbarically killed on the false accusation of having an affair with a Muslim girl.
"20 million Christians in Pakistan are treated as second class citizens and denied justice in Pakistan by Islamic governments which never feel ashamed to release Muslim criminals and terrorists" said Dr. Nazir S Bhatti, who has been been campaigning for equal rights for Christian people in Pakistan since 1985 and is President of the Pakistan Christian Congress (PCC). He had to flee Pakistan for his safety and now lives in the USA.
While in his country Nazir Bhatti was arrested many times. The government of Pakistan registered 21 false cases of treason and blasphemy against him on February 13 1998, for leading a protest against the burning of the Christian village Shanti Nagar in Punjab by radical Muslims.
The reality of Christian victimization and persecution in this Muslim-majority country is so horrific that I suggested that the international community, particularly the British Commonwealth of which it is part, should give Pakistan the South African treatment and treat it like a pariah until it repeals its blasphemy laws and protects its religious minorities.
As usual, last Christmas was a dark Christmas for Pakistani Christians, and, amid growing fear of persecution and rampant economic and social discrimination in Pakistan, the year 2012 was one of the worst years for them.
Raymond Ibrahim, in his monthly report of Muslim Persecution of Christians throughout the world for December, writes about Pakistan:
Birgitta Almby, a 70-year-old Bible school teacher from Sweden, was shot by two men in front of her home; she died soon after. She had served in Pakistan for 38 years. Police said they could not find the assassins and could not unearth a motive, although Christians close to her have no doubt "Islamic extremists" murdered the elderly woman: "Who else would want to murder someone as apolitical and harmless as Almby, who had dedicated her life to serving humanity?" That service may have included sharing the Gospel with Muslims, an act strictly forbidden in Islam.Other recent Muslim atrocities against Christians are listed on Jihad Watch.
The list of horrors could continue, but I'm sure that those who do not want to look away and pretend it does not happen have now got the message.
On a positive note, March 2nd has now been proposed as the Annual World Day against Christianophobia, with a petition to the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon for the recognition of a World Day against “Christianophobia”.
I would have probably preferred "against the persecution of Christians" to another "phobia", but it is true that the latter includes other forms of attack against Christianity, like the ones coming from the Western "progressives" as well as from communist regimes or the 1,400-year-old cult of Islam.