LIFE AS A CHISTIAN IN PAKISTAN
In Pakistan, 2.5 million Christians are trying to live their faith in a country where Islam is the state religion. But terrorist threats, discrimination and especially the blasphemy law make their lives difficult.
One of the most emblematic cases of persecution of Christians in the country is that of Asia Bibi. Sentenced to death for blasphemy in 2010, this Christian woman was finally acquitted on last 31th of October, after nine years in prison. Like Asia Bibi, now living under house arrest, the situation of Christians in the country remains vulnerable.
Pakistan's Christians, like other religious minorities in the country, have been the target of escalating attacks in recent years. The attacks, on their residential areas and places of worship, have mostly been motivated by the country's controversial blasphemy laws. They can practice their faith, they have the right to build churches, to assemble, and the State seems eager to ensure their safety, but they are regularly targeted by terrorist attacks and fear what are called here "mobs", crowd movements excited by religious fanatics, who destroy everything in their path in the name of the defense of Islam.
Created to provide a refuge for Muslims from the Indian subcontinent, Pakistan, in Urdu the "land of the pure", has not always had such an Islamic inspiration. At the time, Christians, who were often farm workers from the lowest castes, hoped that they would be less discriminated against by Muslims than by Hindus. "When Pakistan was created, minorities chose to live there when they were not forced to. They have given everything to the country," says Cecil Chaudhry, executive director of the National Justice and Peace Commission, an organ of the Pakistani Catholic Church dedicated to defending the rights of religious minorities.
Over the years, however, the country has given increasing weight to Islam. The 1973 Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, still in force, provides that citizens are free to practice and profess their religion, but article 2 establishes that Islam is the religion of the State, while two other articles prevent non-Muslims from holding the posts of Head of State and Prime Minister.
Produced in Lahore and Karachi in December 2018