Twin Lahore Church bomb attack victims remembered by European Pak-Christians in demonstration before EU Parliament

Over 70 Pak-Christians gathered in a circle

A vigil was held outside the European Union Parliament on Friday 27th March 2015 to remember the victims of the Lahore twin church bomb attack that killed 17 people and maimed a further 80 victims. A riot ensued after the explosions, after Christians in a frenzied hysteria failed to hold back their emotions, in the first incident of its kind recorded in the history in Pakistan.

Two men apprehended by local Policemen were taken from them and beaten to death, then burned, after police chose to walk the gunmen towards the Christian mourners caring for the dead and injured.  It is believed the direction taken by the police teams in walking with the apprehended gunmen triggered the riots.

Pakistani media have concentrated on the killing of two Muslims whose lives were promoted as having a ‘higher value.’   The biased reporting has manifested great animosity against the Pakistan Christian community of Lahore, resulting in threats of an attack to churches on 24th March 2015.  Local Police have used excessive violence in rounding up Christian rioters and have detained then without recourse to visits from family members or legal teams. Fears persist that these men are being tortured despite Pakistan having ratified the UN Human Rights Convention against Torture. Police are now telling families they must pay an unlawful Jizya tax for return of their young men, for the killing of two Muslim men.

The event was a collaboration between Belgium based Pakistan Christian Action Committee led by Latif Bhatti; Dutch based Global Christian Voice led by Watson Gill and British Pakistani Christian Association.

Protestors gathered outside the European Parliament from 2pm and called for justice for the victims of the attack and for better protection of all minorities in Pakistan.  A riot ensued during which two men were apprehended by the local Police.

Wilson Chowdhry of the British Pakistani Christian Association said:

“This vigil was a coming together of Pak-Christians across Europe concerned about the ongoing persecution of Christians in Pakistan.  Our primary desire was for our European Parliament, one of the world’s strongest political and humanitarian bodies to engage with Pakistan’s government to ensure better protection of minorities living there.”

Wilson Chowdhry called for the EU to consider using Pakistan’s GSP status agreement to lever change in the poor human rights record of Pakistan.  The EU’s “Generalized Scheme of Preferences” (GSP) allows developing country exporters to pay less or no duties on their exports to the EU.  This gives them vital access to EU markets and contributes to their economic growth. The agreement was ratified with Pakistan at a parliamentary session in 2013. Wilson was invited to take part in discussions at a meeting of the South Asian Delegation for the EU March 20th 2013.  During that meeting Chair of the South Asian Delegation, MEP Jean Lambert, said:

“This agreement was not simply a trade agreement but an opportunity for stronger diplomatic relationship and will contribute to the fostering of peace, security and human rights welfare in the region.”  (click here)

Mr. Chowdhry believes that despite gaining billions of dollars through additional trade the proposed benefits to those living in the nation of Pakistan have failed to materialise. He believes that in particular the lives of minorities have reached a nadir.  Mr. Chowdhry elaborated:

“The recent twin bomb attack and lack of police protection are indicative of the vulnerability of Christians in Pakistan. Citizens of Youhanabad are in terror of another attack from local Muslims or further police brutality. We hope EU parliamentarians review the agreed GSP status in relation to an easily evidenced worsening human rights record. Future agreements should clearly stipulate parameters for improved performance in this area.”

He added:

“If EU ministers have qualms about setting such parameters, then perhaps they should discuss the long overdue “Special Status” for Pakistani Christian asylum seekers, throughout Europe.  Holland’s Parliament recently agreed such status and now Europe should concur with these sensible and practical solutions to ongoing concerns about the treatment of Christians in Pakistan.” (click here)

At the end of the protest a petition was submitted to the  Offices of the Belgian Federal Minister of Foreign Affairs.