Pakistani Christians in Thailand: An Overview of the Situation and our Advocacy Efforts at Jubilee Campaign

Source:  www.jubileecampaign.org

Date:  December 20, 2019

Pakistan is ranked the 5th most dangerous nation in the world for Christians on the Open Doors World Watch List 2019. Similarly, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom designates Pakistan as a Tier 1 Country of Particular Concern in regards to religious freedom violations.

One religious group that routinely faces breaches upon their religious freedom is the Christian minority community in Pakistan. Pakistani Christians often fall victim to violent attacks (1467 in 2018, according to Open Doors), killings (28 in 2018), and arbitrary arrests based on blasphemy and apostasy (56 in 2018) solely due to their faith. Pakistan's official state religion is Islam, and although the government has made some steps towards improving the religious freedom situation within the country--prosecuting perpetrators of religiously motivated violence, creating a National Commission for Minorities' Rights, and condemning forced marriages of Christian women--the situation still remains dire.

Because of the constant dangers that Pakistani Christians face daily in their home country, many have fled to Thailand in an attempt to seek asylum. During 2015, the flow of Pakistani Christians to Thailand reached its height at approximately 4,000 individuals.

According to Jubilee Campaign Netherlands, however, "Pakistani Christians have been predominantly denied refugee status and thus their presence is not reflected in...the figures provided by the UNHCR." Moreover, World Watch Monitor reveals that less than 5 percent of such applications by Pakistani Christians are dismissed. While there are some instances in which stories of persecution are false or have been exaggerated, even the individuals whose plight is real are often rejected upon their interview with UNHCR for a multitude of reasons. Many Pakistani Christians are uneducated and have experienced tremendous trauma, often rendering them unable to relay their stories accurately and with detailed information. Moreover, in instances in which interviews by the UNHCR are conducted up to 4 years after their initial entry into Thailand, such details are difficult to recall precisely, and multiple members of the same family are likely to share their personal stories, which therefore creates some discrepancies.

Not only are these asylum seekers rejected as asylum seekers and refugees, but they also are subject to appalling living conditions. Immigration centers are overcrowded, unsanitary, and unsafe, which is evident through the rates of death and disease within what World Watch Monitor calls "stinking dungeons." Women and children within these centers are fed a diet that leaves them nearly starving, and it is believed that at least 5 Pakistani Christian asylum seekers have died within these immigration detention centers throughout the past few years.

For the remaining Pakistani Christians families and individuals who continue to languish in these immigration detention centers, we have used the donations of our generous benefactors to provide them bail so they may be released from such torturous conditions. We have also worked to re-open some of the cases that were at first rejected by the UNHCR, granting them justice and recognizing their refugee status, thus granting them greater protection. During this season of generosity and fellowship, we hope that you can find it in your hearts to raise the stories of and keep in your thoughts and prayers our brothers and sisters across the world who are unable to spend the holidays freely and joyously.

 

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