While the state of Pakistan has sought to make amends for the mob violence against Christians in the Jaranwala district of Faisalabad, the core issue of sustained prejudice remains unaddressed. The country’s school curriculum often paints a picture of “maltreated” Muslims at the hands of Christians, bolstered by clerics who see their residence in a “Muslim state” as an opportunity to enact vengeance against Christianity and the West. This isn’t a solely Pakistani problem. Next-door in Afghanistan, the Taliban also persecute their minorities, with some going so far as to suggest—falsely—that there are no Christians in the country.
According to estimates, there were roughly 2.5 million Christians in Afghanistan when the Taliban returned to power in Kabul, forcing many to go underground to avoid harassment. According to a report published in the International Christian Concern last month, the Taliban have even started offering financial compensation for anyone who reports on Christians, pushing desperate Afghans suffering from poverty and starvation to turn on their neighbors as a means of survival. The Concern report notes that unless ransomed by their families, Christians captured by the Taliban’s “courts” face brutal torture and even death. The hefty ransoms, meanwhile, leave the survivors bankrupt, forcing them to flee their homes to avoid repeated kidnappings from the various Taliban gangs.
Amidst this persecution, many Christians have chosen to flee to Pakistan at risk of capture and death by the Taliban. Unfortunately, as seen in the Jaranwala incident, even in Pakistan many of them have to conceal their faith or risk backlash that could prove even more dangerous than the conditions they fled. The situation is worsened by Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, which are often used to target minorities to settle personal scores or to resolve disputes over money, property or business. The silver lining is the manner in which all top functionaries in Pakistan—from the Army to civilian leaders and civil society—have made it clear that incidents such as Jaranwala would not be tolerated. In shunning the imitation of the most condemnable interpretation of faith by extremists such as the Taliban and those who have been inspired by them in Pakistan, the country has taken a small, but significant, step to ensure the protection of all its citizens.