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Church official in Pakistan: Christians are ‘treated like animals,’ subject to rape and slavery

Catholic World News - March 25, 2010

An official of the Pakistani bishops’ conference has called upon the international community to exert pressure upon the nation’s government and defend the nation’s beleaguered Christian minority.

“In Pakistan, Christians suffer and see their lives in danger every day,” said Father John Shakir Nadeem, secretary of the bishops’ commission for social communications. “In some areas, believers are treated like animals, in slavery or subjected to harassment, violence, and forced conversions.”

“There is a widespread phenomenon of kidnapping of Christian girls, with death threats to the poorest families,” he continued. “Their abduction is followed by conversion and forced marriage. It is a stigma that many NGOs [non-governmental organizations] denounce in the face of the indifference of the authorities.”

He continued:

The situation is certainly varies between urban and rural areas. Christians in the city-- even in a general context of discrimination-- live together in neighborhoods called “colonies.” They have access to education, social services, to work. 30% of the Christian population can also make their way in society, even though here we are exposed to terrorist attacks against churches and Christian areas.

In remote villages, rural areas, the situation is very different. Small Christian groups, often poor, marginalized, and illiterate, suffer the oppression of the Muslim majority and are under the rule of others who make their profit by bullying, to rape, slavery, murder … Christians are often subject to false accusations of blasphemy, to threats of conversion, violence against women, property and possessions.

The Church spokesman made his complaint as Christians in Rawalpindi gathered for the funeral of Arshed Masih, who died from burns that covered 80% of his body. Neighbors reported that Masih was burned by local police-- the same police who had raped his wife.

Christians are a tiny minority in Pakistan's overwhelmingly Muslim population; only 0.7% of the Islamic republic’s 159.6 million people are Catholic.

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