Dead bodies strewn over courtyard of All Saints Church, Peshawar
BBC News feature on Lahore bombing March 2015 (Click here) Premier Christian radio Interview (click here)
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Today as we near the 2nd anniversary of the Peshawar twin Church bomb attack (22nd September 2013) that killed over 100 Christians in Pakistan, the British Pakistani Christian Association (BPCA) is launching a new campaign to get the UK to change its badly out of date and out of touch policies regarding Pakistani Christians in general, and refugees in particular. BPCA representatives have been told by a barrister who practices in immigration that there are several nations’ policies regarding immigrants and refugees that are looked to and used as a guide by many other nations and the UK is one of those favoured few. He also noted that it is usual practice for guidance by judges to claim that the situation is generally alright with a few problem areas so as not to ‘open the floodgates’. Unfortunately since at least 2013 the UK’s official policy has been that Christians in Pakistan suffer significant discrimination but are not generally persecuted. The exact policy summary statement is:
‘Christians in Pakistan are a religious minority who, in general, suffer discrimination but this is not sufficient to amount to a real risk of persecution’
This remains the basic Home Office position, even though an immigration judge recently gave out ‘Country Guidance’ on Pakistani Christians that was very marginally better than that which preceded it. The UN HCR, which often has responsibility for the claims of Pakistani Christian refugees around the world, explicitly cites this absurd UK policy as grounds for not prioritizing Pakistani Christian asylum seekers and refugees.
An extremely angry BPCA chairman Wilson Chowdhry denounced this:
‘This policy statement was flatly wrong when it was given out several years ago, and it is even more out of touch with reality now. This sends out an appalling message to other governments and the UNHCR about the reality on the ground in Pakistan for Christians. It paints a picture that is utterly at odds with the truth. Currently Pakistan is independently rated 8th worst in the world for severity of persecution of Christian residents – a ranking that doesn’t just cover the theory of what a nations’ constitution says, that doesn’t listen, as governments all too often do, to the self-justifying verbiage that comes out of too many of Pakistan’s representatives, but carefully measures the facts on the ground, the lived reality of Christian citizens of Pakistan.’
His anger and frustration is echoed by Lord Alton of Liverpool, and an extremely knowledgeable and active campaigner for religious freedom and human rights. He said
‘Whoever at the Home Office wrote this statement should be sent to live in Pakistan with a Christian family. If a systematic campaign of bombings, killings, the burning alive of people and their homes, the rape and forced marriage of Christian girls, and a systematic campaign whipping up hatred doesn’t amount to persecution it is hard to imagine what would have to happen before the Home Office described it as persecution.’
Wilson Chowdhry added further fuel to the fire:
BPCA researchers and experts who get involved in writing expert reports for asylum appeal cases where Pakistani Christians seeking asylum have been rejected and are set to be returned to face annihilation in Pakistan report consistent patterns of outdated or inappropriate guidance being used by Home Office decision makers. This is not acceptable. They report that the Home Office guidance appears to wildly inflate the efficacy and integrity of Pakistan’s police and judicial forces, to claim that there is an ‘increase in police professionalism’ regarding human rights, but typically cite only one incident in support of this claim, an incident that involved a violent Muslim mob for whom the Muslim police were likely to have sympathy with, and to consistently underestimate both the difficulty of successful and secure internal relocation, and also the ability and willingness of the ever burgeoning and increasingly influential extremist groups to use their contacts within government to track down Christian targets. We also notice that the Taliban, which already regularly harasses, attacks and intimidates Christians in certain areas of Pakistan, is facing significant inroads from ISIS. We note that at least one Taliban commander has publicly said that his men are simply waiting for ‘the right time’ to join ISIS. Given what ISIS is already doing to Christians in Syria and Iraq, and given the recent government whipping up of hatred against Christians, conditions are increasingly ripe for genocide of Christians in Pakistan. Already they feel they do not belong, that they are treated like absolute refuse. Where they can, they desperately flee to places such as Thailand that treat them horrifically badly, and then face misguided attitudes from the UNHCR, as well as the results of what appears to be a systematic campaign of misinformation by Pakistani government and intelligence agencies to suppress the reality of life in Pakistan and induce such countries as Thailand and Sri Lanka to forcibly and illegally return endangered Pakistani Christians back to the home country. We also strongly suspect that such misinformation is a factor in adversely affecting the accuracy and appropriateness of Western nations such as the UK’s stated policies in regard to Pakistani Christians. Christian pastors in Pakistan have repeatedly told us that those who persecute their flocks seem to quite easily gain residence in the UK and the West, but it is much harder for the victims of aggression to get to safety in the West. This is born out on the ground in the UK, when we see non-Christian Pakistani’s who appear to have no intention of integrating being granted asylum, but Pakistani Christians who have been here for a decade and are thoroughly westernized being rejected and sent back to die.
The BPCA recently obtained updated stats on the number of Pakistani Christians seeking asylum in the UK, and on how many were successful. BPCA researcher Nathanael Lewis commented :
A quick analysis reveals that for 2012 and 2013 about 50% ended up being given leave to remain but in 2014 this dropped to 40% and this year so far it has plummeted to less than 20%. If that isn’t some kind of statistical anomaly or because appeals are ongoing, then this is deeply concerning – that the percentage of successful applicants has been slashed whilst the situation in Pakistan is steadily worsening for Christians is exactly the wrong direction we should expect to see if the system was working properly.
For these reasons, in the face of a likely genocide of Christians in Pakistan, the BPCA is urging Christians in the West and particularly in the UK to raise the reality of the situation with their political representatives and the media. We suggest that communications focus on one or more of the following areas:
The humanitarian and moral imperative, particularly as Pakistan is a Commonwealth nation
The practical benefits of accepting Christian refugees in particular – the fact that the security risk is nil, leading to significant security savings, that they hold the same basic values and integrate far better, helping in community cohesion and all the associated cost savings that come out of that
The fact that due to their experiences, with proper support and protection, they will be particularly well able to spot and help combat Islamic extremism in the UK.
That we often have affirmative action plans to help the most seriously disadvantaged, and given that Muslims have other neighbouring Muslim nations they can appeal to or seek safety in, but Christians do not and suffer extra barriers in seeking refuge, there should be such an affirmative action plan to help them overcome such barriers to gain safety.
In fact, almost all of these points will apply to Christian refugees from the Middle East and Muslim nations generally. We invite you to sign and promote this petition (click here) calling for a radical overhaul of UK policy in regard to Pakistani Christians. In addition, if you want an exemplar of a letter text on the issue to use or adapt when writing or emailing politicians generally, such as MP’s, MEP’s, peers and the like, then we have this draft document here: (click here) and if you are writing to the relevant government ministers, Home Secretary Theresa May (email@example.com ) or Lord Bates (firstname.lastname@example.org) then we have this version here (click here)
Find your MP (click here)