WCC Central Committee meeting, 28 August - 5 September 2012

1.      Despite the fact that Pakistan was created 67 years ago with a pledge of equal rights for all its religious minorities, today the minority religious communities in the country are facing serious threats to their existence. Pakistan’s Father of the Nation, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, laid down the “foundations of a modern, tolerant and progressive Pakistan”. He had promised to create a secular and liberal country where all religions could co-exist without any discrimination. The preamble to the constitution of Pakistan guarantees that adequate provision shall be made for minorities to freely profess and practice their religions and develop their culture. Article 25 (1) of the Constitution of Pakistan 1973 states that "All citizens are equal before law and are entitled to equal protection of law". But a gradual Islamization has been taking place in the country since the martial law regime of General Ziaul Haq who introduced enforcement of the controversial blasphemy law in the 1980s.

2.      Persecution and discrimination against religious minorities has forced more and more Hindus and Christians to abandon their religions and convert to Islam. Today, a significant number of young women of religious minorities, especially Hindus and Christians who live in Punjab, Sindh and Baluchistan provinces, face violence, including sexual assault, including rape, threats, and persecution. These minority communities are living in a state of fear and terror due to the rising incidence of abduction of young girls and their forced conversion to Islam. The victims of these forced conversions are often girls from poor backgrounds and are unable to defend themselves against extremists because their community is deprived, defenceless and marginalised.

3.      When young Christian and Hindu women are abducted, kept in confinement, converted to Islam and forced to marry Muslim men, the political authorities seem to be powerless to stop the Islamist fundamentalist forces that are responsible for these heinous acts and that are freely operating in the country. Although Christian and Hindu leaders and members of their religious communities have constantly challenged the government of Pakistan about the continued abduction and forceful conversions of young women, their voices have been ignored. This lack of protection of religious minorities by the government of Pakistan is unacceptable.

Expressing deep concern on the plight of religious minorities in Pakistan, the Central Committee of the World Council of Churches, meeting in Kolympari, Crete, Greece, from 28 August to 5 September 2012:

A. Calls on the government of Pakistan to ensure adequate protection mechanisms for all religious minorities in the country;

B. Urges the government of Pakistan to take immediate action to prevent the abduction, forced conversion to Islam and forced marriage of young women from minority religious communities and to bring to justice all those who engage or have engaged in these heinous crimes;

C. Requests the governments and other international civil society organizations, interfaith groups, and churches to exert continued pressure on the government of Pakistan to prevent the abductions, forced conversion to Islam and forced marriages of young women from religious minorities.