International Religious Freedom Report slams Pakistan for attack on minorities

The US has slammed Pakistan for allowing Islamists to attack religious minorities with impunity in its just published International Religious Freedom Report for 2014.

Pakistani Christians protesting against persecution of religious minorities in Pakistan. (Photo: © Reuters)

Pakistani Christians protesting against persecution of religious minorities in Pakistan. (Photo: © Reuters)

Pakistan “failed to protect members of majority and minority religious groups.” The report attacked “the government’s general failure to investigate, arrest, or prosecute those responsible for religious freedom abuses” which “promoted an environment of impunity.” Blasphemy laws were also used to persecute minorities such as the Ahmadiyya Muslim community.

The report also blasted the Nigerian government for having “failed to investigate, prosecute, and punish perpetrators of violence or other abuses of religious freedom” and in many cases soldiers deserted their posts rather than fight Boko Haram.

It also decried international non-state actors and terrorist groups which “have set their sights on destroying religious diversity.”

The report “attempts to give voice to those oppressed people and to document when and where the universal human right to religious freedom was violated.”

This year’s report focuses in a large part on the actions of groups such as ISIS in the Middle East who have perpetrated numerous human rights abuses against minority religious groups, in particular, Christians.

“ISIL sought to elimina­­­­­te members of any group it assessed as deviating from ISIL’s own violent and destructive interpretation of Islam” the report states. “It has forcibly displaced hundreds of thousands of people, conducted mass executions, and kidnapped, sold, enslaved, raped and/or forcibly converted thousands of women and children—all on the grounds that these people stand in opposition to ISIL’s religious dogma.”

Beyond the Islamic State the report listed a litany of abuses in the name of Islamism worldwide.

  • ·         Jabhat al-Nusra: Al-Qaeda’s affiliate in the Syrian Civil War carried out “targeted executions of religious leaders including seven Druze clerics in Dara province and Jesuit priest Frans van der Lugt.”
  • Boko Haram: The Islamist group in Nigeria “deliberately targeted Christians, as well as Muslims who spoke out against or opposed their radical ideology.” The report did not note that Boko Haram pledged allegiance to the Islamic State and is now styling itself ‘The Islamic State in West Africa.’ Boko Haram “killed more people in 2014 than the previous five years of the conflict combined.”
  • Shiite Militias: Iranian backed Shiite militias in Iraq persecuted Sunni Muslims, carrying out “abductions, execution-style killings, torture, and threats, as well as destruction of homes and businesses.”
  • Pakistani Taliban: Tehrik e-Taliban (TTP) threatened Ismaili Muslims and Kalash with death. The report noted “sectarian, violent extremist, and terrorist groups attacked houses of worship, religious gatherings, and religious leaders, causing hundreds of deaths during the year.”
  • Lashkar i Jhangvi: Killed 24 Hazara Shiite pilgrims in a suicide bombing in Pakistani Balochistan last January.

The report also recorded a rise an anti-Semitic attacks in Europe, most notably the killing of four people in a Jewish Museum in Belgium by an Islamic State gunman who had been radicalized in prison.

Religiously motivated violence against Muslims was on the rise in Burma, where the Rohingya Muslim community are not recognized as citizens, and Sri Lanka, where hardline Buddhists rioted against both Muslims and Christians over the year.

The full report is available on the US State Department website.

Get a preview of Clarion Project’s upcoming film, Faithkeepers, about the violent persecution of Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East. The film features exclusive footage and testimonials of Christians, Baha’i, Yazidis, Jews, and other minority refugees, and a historical context of the persecution in the region.

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