Today, Wednesday, October 23, 2013, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will meet with President Obama at the end of a four-day visit to the United States. Late last week, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (“USCIRF”), a governmental body created by President Clinton, urged Mr. Obama to “raise concerns about the dire religious freedom situation in Pakistan” in his meeting with Prime Minister Sharif.
Pakistan, our erstwhile ally in the war against terrorism, is a nation that has received tens of billions of our tax dollars in foreign aid from our government over the past decade. And it is also a nation that persecutes Christians. Pakistan gained independence from Great Britain in 1947, but has been unstable ever since. Its people have suffered through three wars, and endured military regimes and corrupt governments. Today, militant Islamic forces in Pakistan have initiated much violence against Christian believers. Numerous Pakistani Christians have been falsely accused of breaking infamous law 295(c) of the Pakistani criminal code, which provides that blasphemy against Mohammed is a crime punishable by death. At this time, approximately 40 individuals are on death row or serving life sentences for allegedly blasphemous conduct, a statistic unmatched anywhere else in the world. These charges are often fabricated for the personal gain of the accuser. Several years ago, a mob of armed Moslems attacked and demolished two Christian villages, burning and looting, leaving 15,000 Christians homeless.
USCIRF Chairman and friend of Touchstone and Mere Comments, Robert George, recently stated:
Based on USCIRF findings, Pakistan represents one of the worst situations in the world for religious freedom. The September attack on All Saints Church that killed close to 100 worshippers underscores Pakistan’s exceedingly poor religious freedom situation. The violence extremists perpetuate threatens all Pakistanis, including Shi’as, Christians, Ahmadis, and Hindus, as well as those members of the Sunni majority who dare to challenge extremists. Given that President Obama and Prime Minister Sharif reportedly will be discussing how best to counter violent extremism, we urge the U.S. to incorporate concern about freedom of religion into these conversations. To successfully counter violent extremism, Pakistan must have a holistic approach that both ensures that perpetrators of violence are jailed and addresses laws that foster vigilante violence, such as the blasphemy law and anti-Ahmadi laws. For the sake of his country, the Prime Minister should be pressed to take concrete action.
USCIRF’s 2013 Annual Report highlighted the dire state of religious freedom in Pakistan and that growing religious extremism threatens Pakistan’s security and stability, as well as the freedoms of religion and expression and other human rights. Notwithstanding this alarming situation, the U.S. government has not designated Pakistan as a “country of particular concern.” USCIRF’s Religious Violence Project found that religious freedom violations in Pakistan have risen to unprecedented levels, and the government continues to fail to protect Christians. I am unsure whether Mr. Obama will find time to make serious inquiries about the persecution of Christians in Pakistan, but I think that as the political season begins to heat up for the November 2014 elections, and political candidates come to visit your neighborhood, church or community group, you might want to ask their position on taxpayer-provided foreign aid to nations that persecute Christians. I would think that the answers should be revealing. And as we move into the annual period of prayer for the persecuted Church around the world, please remember to pray for God’s protection over our Christian brothers and sisters in Pakistan.