Image of Peter Trotter Senior Protection Officer at UNHCR Thailand and Wilson Chowdhry Chairman of the BPCA
On World Book Day, the British Pakistani Christian Association confirms that, yesterday, we presented to UK, Canadian, Australian, New Zealand and many EU member state parliamentarians, MEP’s and other politicians the third updated edition of the book ‘Education, Human Rights Violations in Pakistan and the Scandal involving UNHCR and Christian asylum seekers in Thailand’ . It details the manner in which primary and secondary book texts in schools in Pakistan, unfortunately, still promote hatred and intolerance of the ‘Other’ and the manner in which educationalists, teachers and human rights campaigners and public interest groups in Pakistan and worldwide are calling for practical ways in which this scandalous situation can be confronted and resolved. Let us join in solidarity to make this concerted call for positive change!
Authored by Desmond Fernandes, a genocide scholar and former senior lecturer at De Montfort University, this updated edition details the manner in which earlier editions of the book stimulated UK parliamentary debates and a commitment by the UK Home Office to reconsider its asylum-linked ‘Country Information Guidance’ (CIG) regarding Pakistani Christians. It critiques the UK Home Office’s and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s subsequently revised 2016 Pakistan ‘Country Information Guidance’ (which influences the country guidance of many authorities around the world) and concludes that urgent revisions still need to be made if persecuted Christians and ‘Others’ are to be recognised, as such.
Wilson Chowdhry, Chairman of the British Pakistani Christian Association, said:
“The UK Home Office’s current’ Country Information Guidance (CIG) remains dangerously and unacceptably flawed and needs to be critically and urgently challenged by concerned parliamentarians.
“Key information and evidence regarding the persecution of Christians and ‘Others’ from Pakistan is clearly being ignored by the UK Home and Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the asylum determining authorities of many EU member states as well as those in Australia, as this book shows.
“We appeal to parliamentarians worldwide to read the findings of the book and act to pressurize relevant authorities into recognizing the very real persecution status of people fleeing Pakistan.
“We need to provide asylum to people suffering from the most horrific persecution, as this book details.”
As it stands, most Christians applying for asylum in the UK and several other countries, having fled from persecution, will continue to be categorised as ‘bogus’/’illegal’/’failed’ asylum seekers. The UNHCR’s offices in Thailand and elsewhere, alongside immigration authorities in other countries, substantively influenced as they are in their asylum deliberations by the UK Home Office’s Country Information Guidance relating to Christians in Pakistan, will continue to not recognise the persecuted status of most Christians from Pakistan.
This is a scandal and concerned parliamentarians worldwide need to challenge this state of affairs.
According to the recently released Open Doors World Watch 2017 List of countries in which Christians are persecuted, Pakistan ranks at number 4, even above Syria and Iraq. Yet, the UK Home Office and Foreign Office largely fails to adequately recognise the ‘persecuted’ status of Christians there.
Just 4 months ago, the Right Rev Dr Russell Barr, the moderator of the Church of Scotland voiced his support for persecuted Christians in Pakistan. Echoing the concerns of many human rights campaigners and church and non-church groups worldwide, he wrote to the UK foreign secretary Boris Johnson, noting that Christians in Pakistan were being abducted and forcibly converted. Many kidnappers of Christians were protected by police and not enough force was being exerted on the Pakistan government. He duly noted that: “Forcible conversion to any religion is a crime, even under Pakistani law … My fear is that if pressure is not brought to bear on the Pakistan government, the problem will continue to grow and people will continue to commit such crimes with impunity without any fear of punishment. I therefore request that you raise this matter with the Government of Pakistan, asking them to stop this persecution, bring the perpetrators to justice and introduce new legislation as suggested by the Senate committee”.
But on 1st February 2017, Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper reported the following opposition to any new changes in legislation suggested by the Senate committee: “Religious affairs minister Sardar Mohammad Yousuf has said the federal government is not amending the blasphemy law. ‘The law will remain as it is and that those blaspheming … will face the gallows'”. This is despite the fact that “Pakistan is on record as having one of the world’s worst and most widely abused blasphemy laws, which has resulted in abuse of the law through false accusations that prosper under a system of impunity … Blasphemy accusations have resulted not only in the destruction of the lives of the accused but have often been at the root of the destruction of entire Christian communities”, reported Tiffany Barrans, international legal director for the American Centre for Law and Justice.
The book documents substantive concerns by church and non-church bodies and human rights defenders in Pakistan that Christians and targeted ‘Others’ (including the Baloch, Ahmadis, Hindus and Hazaras) in Pakistan are clearly being subjected to persecution. As noted by Lord Alton, Vice Chair of the All-Party UK Parliamentary Group on International Freedom of Religion or Belief: “The treatment of Pakistani Christians fleeing persecution is an international scandal. This report highlights the vicissitudes and egregious violations of human rights which they face in their homeland. This is a timely, scholarly and hugely important wake-up call challenging our indifference to their suffering … I think it is very important when dealing with governments, dealing with parliamentarians, that you have empirically based evidence and I think the book … makes it much easier … when we then approach ministers, to be able to show them this isn’t just rhetoric but it’s based on fact”.
For Eric Abetz, Liberal Senator for Tasmania and Former Australian Government Leader of the Senate, parliamentarians worldwide need to act now: “When many in the world seek to avoid the atrocities, the British Pakistani Christian Association (BPCA) has collaborated with experts and hard evidence to highlight and bring to the attention of the world the particular atrocities occurring daily if not hourly in Pakistan – which has the unenviable distinction of being in the top of the leagues table for persecuting Christians and other minorities. The world’s indifference – especially the English speaking world’s indifference – is scandalous. Our indifference must end. Not only must it end, all of us individually need to be making the difference. If th[is] most recent work of the BPCA does not motivate us to be in the vanguard for making a difference, nothing ever will”.
Australian Senator Abetz, Wilson Chowdhry Chairman of the BPCA and Australian Minister for Immigration Peter Dutton
As western governments (including the US/UK) continue to arm and often diplomatically deflect criticism of the Pakistan government’s human rights record, asylum seekers and refugees from Pakistan find themselves being used as ‘bargaining chips’ by the UK and other governments as well as EU decision makers in cynical ‘war on terror’, international trade, ‘migration’ and ‘aid’ deals. These actions should be questioned.
This edition was also accepted as a formal submission to the UK Commons Select Committee/International Development Committee’s 2016 Inquiry into the effectiveness of UK government DFID international educational aid programmes. Parliamentarians will find some of the disturbing assessments and findings presented in this book of use. Hopefully, they will stimulate critical debates and actions that might halt some of the clearly questionable UK governmental DFID as well as US AID initiatives that are promoting linguistic human rights abuses, discriminatory educational programmes and linguistic genocide.
You can purchase an electronic copy of this Updated 3rd edition, 2016 (ISBN: 978 – 0 – 9926880 – 4 – 2) at the specially reduced purchase price of UK £5 by clicking (here)
Paperback copies are available on request by email at the cost of £15 + postage email Wilson Chowdhry at firstname.lastname@example.org
Read about our book launch (click here)