A far cry from justice

As we continue to monitor closely the situation in Gojra and Korian, reports are coming in daily of the atrocities committed there in recent weeks and the ensuing battle to bring the perpetrators to justice. At least eight Christians were killed when Muslim extremists went on the rampage in retaliation for the supposed desecration of a Koran, the latest deadly attack on Pakistan’s minority Christian community that has left fellow believers the world over deeply concerned.

The government has taken some steps towards reconstruction and rehabilitation in areas where homes and property were destroyed, but local Christians remain fearful – recovering from the emotional trauma will take far longer than rebuilding homes.

Not only that, but local police officers have only compounded the feeling of insecurity by arresting Christians mentioned in the First Information Report registered with the police, rather than the very Muslims suspected of carrying out the horrific attacks.
Sadly, such insouciance on the part of the police in Gojra and Korian is typical of authorities right across Pakistan wherever Christians are victimised by Muslim radicals.

When thousands of Muslims attacked the Sukhar church and other Christian buildings in the Sangla Hill attack in 2005, no one was arrested. Neither was anyone arrested over the notorious attack by 30,000 Muslims on the Christian village of Shantinagar 12 years ago, nor many other attacks on Christians over the years. We had hoped that this time things would not be the same.

Now in the case of Gojra and Korian, instead of being regarded as the victims of this injustice, the Christians are again being treated as the criminals. Instead of receiving justice, they face an uphill struggle against local authorities intent on turning a blind eye.

The government must intervene before more Christians are arrested as Muslims seek revenge for the FIRs. If the government fails to act, it will be to the serious detriment not only of the ongoing struggle for social and religious harmony, but also of Pakistan’s reputation on the international stage.

CLAAS continues to press for the release of the arrested Christians and the rightful arrest of Muslim suspects like Mohammad Qadir Awan who are still roaming free. CLAAS-PK is already in contact with affected families and the police and at a recent press conference in Lahore, its director Joseph Francis threatened to camp in front of the Lahore High Court unless police halted the arrest of Christians.

CLAAS-UK has, meanwhile, brought this injustice to the attention of the Pakistani High Commissioner and the UK Government - which has yet to make any statement condemning the attacks. We hope for a positive response.

The wounds are fresh and we continue to mourn our brothers and sisters who died in the attacks. Please write to your local MP expressing your concerns and pray that justice will be done.

Nasir Saeed is the head of the UK division of CLAAS, an organisation that supports persecuted Christians in Pakistan.