Fiona Bruce MP, Prime Minister’s Special Envoy for Freedom of Religion or Belief, held a Pakistan FoRB roundtable meeting on 26 October at 2 – 3.30pm.
The roundtable meetings, bring together civil society with FCDO colleagues from the Pakistan Desk and posted in Pakistan to share concerns about the Freedom of Religion and Belief situation there.
The meeting was held at the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office, King Charles St, London, SW1A 2AH.
Juliet Chowdhry, Trustee for British Asian Christian Association, addressed the event that was also attended by Bishop emeritus/Monsignor Michael Nazir-Ali, John Pontifex of Aid to the Church in Need, Bishop Azad Marshall Moderator for the Church of Pakistan, Lord Alton and David Burrowes the Prime Minister’s Deputy Special Envoy for Freedom of Religion or Belief, among others who all contributed to the discussion. Officers from the High Commission in Islamabad were also in attendance via an internet link and contributed to the meeting.
On Thursday 26th October Britain’s Special Envoy for Freedom of Religion or Belief chaired a meeting attended by leading voices from the UK Pakistani community, or charities serving the nation to gauge the current situation regarding .
In her opening address MP Fiona Bruce , expressed how she valued the contributions of all those attending and would ensure that contributions were taken on board and shared with the UK High Commission in Islamabad.
At the end of the meeting MP Fiona Bruce provided details for the FCDO Pakistan Desk Officer, to enable participants to feed in further comments.
At the end of the meeting Juliet spoke in private with the FCDO Pakistan Desk Officer (FPDO) and is hoping to meet with the FPDO at her offices before the end of the year and to meet with her again during a trip to Islamabad early next year.
Juliet shared details of persecution in Pakistan, including accounts of rape, murder, blasphemy convictions, and widespread slavery, which she equated to genocide.
During the meeting, Juliet began by stating:
“Today, I stand before you to shed light on a critical issue that demands our attention—the persecution faced by minority communities, particularly Christians, in Pakistan. It’s a complex and sensitive topic, and the statistics I present are not just numbers but representations of real lives affected by discrimination, violence, and injustice.”
“Let’s delve into the numbers. The National Commission for Justice and Peace reported that from 1986 to 2015, 15% of blasphemy accusations were against Christians, who constituted only 1.6% of Pakistan’s population at the time.
“However, it’s crucial to note that the Ahmadi community who were implicated in 35% of blasphemy accusations were said to be 0.5% of the population. However they have boycotted the census since 1974, making their actual population uncertain.”
Reflecting on the recent attack on Christians in Jaranwala, she added:
Mob attacks on Christian villages are distressingly common, and the scale of violence surpasses that experienced by other minorities.
The reasons are complex, involving geographical location, societal interactions, and the perception of Christians as spies for the West.
In the recent August 2023 attack in Jaranwala, 26 churches were either razed to the ground or subjected to arson, along with approximately 100 homes.
“Government compensation has yet to reach all those affected, and, as seen in previous cases, many of the arrested suspects have been released. The perceived impunity surrounding these incidents contributes to their proliferation.”
She closed with a simple message of truth, seeking a change to the current situation:
“As we reflect on these harrowing realities, we must recognize that Christians are not the sole minority facing persecution in Pakistan. Hindus, Ahmadis, Sikhs, and others endure discrimination and abuse.
“It is our moral duty to raise awareness, advocate for change, and stand in solidarity with those who face persecution.
“In conclusion, the quality of life for Christians in Pakistan has reached its lowest ebb. Their stories, though difficult to hear, demand our attention and action.
“We cannot turn a blind eye to the plight of these communities. It is time for us to unite, raise our voices, and work towards a world where religious freedom is a universal right, not a distant dream.”
There was much more to her report and a copy was handed to the FPDO.
Much of the data was taken from this blog we shared in November 2022 (click here).