BPCA now has a sister entity in Australia to raise awareness about the plight of persecuted Christians, apostates and to highlight kaffirophobia
Over the past two weeks Australia hosted the British Pakistani Christians Australia) a new sister entity in communion with our original British Charity. Though separate entities both groups will come under the banner of British Pakistani Christian Association (BPCA) our global trading name. The group took part in a spate of events designed to raise awareness about the plight of Christians, globally but particularly in Pakistan. BPCA also aimed to galvanise support for ex-Muslims and thwart apostasy hatred and Kaffirophobia down under in the same way as in the UK.
BPCA Chairman Wilson Chowdhry and apostasy hatred survivor Nissar Hussain participated in numerous events over the preceding two weeks in an attempt to raise the profile of persecuted Christians and Ex-Muslims and establish links for BPC (Australian) with churches in Canberra, Sydney and Melbourne.
BPCA attended an event hosted at Bayview on the Park by the Australian Secular Party entitled “Losing Your Religion: Ex-Muslims Speak Out,” on 9 February 2019. This compelling event saw cross-sections of the ex-muslim community brought together under the one banner, with a clear message that: united we stand, divided we fall. There were many poignant accounts from speakers including prominent ex-muslims Armin Navarbi, Harris Sultan, Zara Kay and Nic Gray.
Christian convert Nissar Hussain also gave his compelling testimony of transcending apostasy hatred in the UK. A link to his story can be found here. Although Hussain has dealt with significant PTSD and trauma concomitant on his 17 years of persecution, it is his faith in Jesus that has given him comfort in these dark moments. In 2 Timothy 3:12 “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life will be persecuted.” However, there is hope for the persecuted as highlight in Matthew 5:10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, because theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
BPCA president, Wilson Chowdhry, spoke passionately about the plight of apostates at the conference. The conference yielded many positive results and saw people unite against apostasy hatred. BPCA established many important connections and links to various ex-muslims and ex-muslim groups in Australia which will help with BPCA’s aspiration to thwart apostasy hatred and kaffirophobia.
On 12th February Wilson Chowdhry and Nissar Hussain met with officials at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Mr Chowdhry expressed a desire for Australian Foreign Aid to be used as a lever for social change in Pakistan. He requested that DFAT introduce a requirement for the Pakistan Government to evidence how money used was benefitting minorities and to reserve a percentage of all funds sent for minorities in particular. Nissar called for converts in Pakistan to be given better protection and for aid to be invested in helping their cause as a spur for freedom of religion.
Wilson Chowdhry delivering a series of reports to DFAT officers at their headquarters in Canberra
Nissar Hussain also presented at the house of a prominent pastor in Canberra. In what was an intimate but important evening, Nissar recounted his compelling testimony, deeply moving attendees and cultivating greater awareness around the issues that he and many other apostates face in the UK and globally. His stated that Britain’s colossal failure to protect apostates should be a cautionary tale to Australia; a country he regards as one of the last “bastions” against the incursion of the extremist ideology which underpinned his persecution in the UK.
Wilson Chowdhry and Nissar Hussain attended a three day conference at Catch the Fire Ministries especially convened for the speakers. Nissar once again inspired people with his moving testimony and his courage which demonstrates the survival of the human spirit against extraordinary odds. Footage of Nissar’s testimony can be watched (here).
On Sunday 17 February 2019, BPCA President, Wilson Chowdhry gave a moving speech highlighting the plight of persecuted Christians and apostates globally and within Pakistan. It is worth noting that Chowdhry and Hussain received a special invite to the recent launch of the Hunt inquiry into global Christian persecution to be overseen by the British of Truro, Philip Mountstephen. BPCA have submitted a report to the inquiry which will hopefully highlight the plight of Pakistani Christians, including converts around the world. (Click here) to hear his presentation.
Chowdhry’s presentation illuminates the need for change in this space. Firstly, he discussed the prevalence of Christianity within Pakistan and although statistics are varied, BPCA believes there are circa 8 million Christians living in Pakistan today. According to Open Doors, an international organisation monitoring global Christian persecution, Pakistan is ranked as the fifth worst country for Christian persecution globally. Furthermore, the UN now declares Pakistan to be the third worst country in terms of its human rights record and 6thworst for poverty. These are shocking statistics which surely identify a significant need for Pakistan to remediate it’s abysmal human rights record. Increased pressure from western nations will hopefully compel Pakistan to re-evaluate its human rights laws and processes.
The Pakistan constitution is inherently bias, and clearly establishes that Pakistan is an “Islamic Republic.” Furthermore, there are numerous laws especially the blasphemy laws which are wielded as weapons to wound minorities. Chowdhry discussed the plight of mother-of-five, Asia Bibi who was charged and sentenced to death on erroneous blasphemy charges circa 10 years ago. She was eventually exonerated in October last year after years of incarceration in squalid and uninhabitable conditions where numerous attempts were made on her life. Her case viscerally foregrounds the need to abrogate blasphemy laws. All blasphemy accusers are Muslim and the age at which a person can be accused of blasphemy is decreasing rapidly, with children shockingly being accused of blasphemy.
Chowdhry discussed the many mob attacks on Christian populations in Pakistan including Gorja (the event that catalysed the creation of BPCA), St Joseph’s colony and Gujranwala. All of these horrifying events highlight the fact that Christians in Pakistan face extreme persecution and violence.
There are an estimated one million Christian brick kiln slaves in Pakistan despite the enactment of anti-slavery legislation pursuant to the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act 1992. One of the champions and icons of the anti-slavery movement in Pakistan is Timothy Iqbal Masih – a Pakistani Christian boy who bravely escaped his own slavery situation to become an activist against slavery. He helped emancipate over 3000 enslaved Pak-Christians. In 1994 he received the Reebok Human Rights Award in Boston and in his acceptance speech he said:
“I am one of those millions of children who are suffering in Pakistan through bonded labour and child labour, but I am lucky that due to the efforts of Bonded Labour Liberation Front (BLLF), I go out in freedom I am standing in front of you here today.
“After my freedom, I joined BLLF School and I am studying in that school now. For us slave children, Ehsan Ullah Khan and BLLF have done the same work that Abraham Lincoln did for the slaves of America. Today, you are free and I am free too.”
Tragically, Masih was shot dead on Easter Sunday on 16 April 1995 – a day BPCA’s believes should be internationally recognised. Masih is a hero in a movement against the extreme repression of Christian voices in Pakistan.
Chowdhry also discussed numerous other horrifying instances of Christian persecution in Pakistan, including the story of Shama and Shazhad. Allegedly a few pages of the Holy Quran were found outside the couples’ residence. The couple, who were brick kiln slaves, were descended on by a mob of hardline islamists who were determined to take revenge against this act of purported blasphemy. The couple were repeatedly beaten, abused and tortured over many hours. They survived all of these attacks. According to the testimony of their six year old son given to the media at the time, they were still alive at the time they were placed in a kiln and burnt alive. Shockingly their son recounts watching his own parents “twitch” in agony as they were burnt alive for the satiation of the macabre agendas of evil mobsters so easily spurred to violence in the name of Islam.
Due to the precariousness of their situation, many Pak-Christians are understandably seeking asylum in the droves, with many of them ending up in Thailand only to be placed in conditions of squalor in Immigration Detention Centres (IDCs). Problematically Thailand is not a signatory to the 1951 Convention for Asylum or the 1967 protocol. Thus many of these refugees flee desperate situations of persecution only to end up in legal limbo in terrible conditions in these centres. BPCA has produced a documentary on the Thailand IDCs.
Chowdhry encouraged Australians to take an active role in thwarting these devastating human rights abuses. He stated that Australian foreign aid budget of $49.6 AUD to Pakistan per year should be used as leverage to influence change, with some of these funds being earmarked to help minorities. Australians should also challenge for an egalitarian Pakistani constitution. He also suggested that Australians challenge for more robust guidance and disciplinary protocols for law enforcement in Pakistan. Australia should also call for the complete abrogation of blasphemy laws in Pakistan and other countries.
Chowdhry also took the opportunity to raise the profile of ex-muslims and non-muslims who face persecution. Chowdhry discussed the plight of Christians including apostate Nissar Hussain, whose aforementioned testimony horrified attendees. Chowdhry also discussed the case of Tajamal Ammar (it is not known if he is an apostate or just a Christian) who was brutalised for hanging poppies on his car. Chowdhry also discussed the terrifying ordeal experienced by Nikki Hurst who was beaten in the Yorkshire town of Bately for being a “kaffir” (a derogatory term for non-muslims).
BPCA has been trying to tackle apostasy hatred and kaffirophobia (a term which denotes hatred of non muslims) for numerous years. BPCA submitted a report prepared by N Lewis, and A. Hussain, to the UK Hate Crime Inquiry 2016 – many of BPCA’s sage recommendations were ignored. BPCA researcher K. Gibbs also made a submission to the UK Hate Crime Inquiry Islamophobia Review Committee 2019. In their recent submission, highlight kaffirophobia and illustrate the nexus between Kaffirophobia and Islamophobia – BPCA postulates that introducing reforms to seriously tackle, curb and eradicate Kaffirophobia will help ameliorate Islamophobia.
Frighteningly, the Hadith prescribes death for apostasy. The Prophet said “Whoever changes his Islamic religion then kill him” (Bukhari 9.84.57). It is a frightening world for apostates who face extreme persecution as elucidated in particular by Hussain’s shocking ordeal at the hands of Islamist extremists who have usurped Bradford, UK. Although his tale is far from being a remote narrative, it is a powerful cautionary tale against allowing the fermenting of such extreme ideologies.
A survey of Ex Muslims has been undertaken by BPCA. According to the results for Australia thus far, 87.5% of respondents stated that when they left the faith they experienced verbal harassment, ill wishes, or insults. 12.5% stated that they experienced vandalism or property damage. 12.5% experienced property damage or theft. 25% experienced physical violence and 25% experienced sexual assault or harassment. Alarmingly, none of the respondents reported their concerns to the police with many highlighting their fear that police do not take cases with a Muslim perpetrator seriously. Also they were afraid of death threats, increased violence and harassment if they pursued legal action. All of this suggests an absence of protocols to ensure that victims are protected when reporting crimes and to ensure that staff are properly educated on apostasy hatred and the unique issues that apostates face. To see a general update of the brief survey of apostasy-related hate crime and the UK results (click here)
Wilson Chowdhry, President of the British Pakistani Christian Association, comments:
“We galvanised significant support in Australia. We were able to conduct numerous successful meetings at atheist, Christian and other events.
“By uniting different forces against apostasy hatred and kaffirophobia, BPCA hopes to take a tenacious stamp against these forces.
“BPCA encourages Australia to adopt strong protocols and laws and kaffirophobia legislation to redress the current situation and stem any further hatred in Australia. It is of utmost importance that Australia protects its core freedoms from the invasive forces which seek to undermine these values.”
British Pakistani Christian Association, continues to provide advocacy and humanitarian aid to Christians in Pakistan and the Pak-Christian diaspora. We cannot do it without your help please donate by clicking (here)