GENEVA: Minority religious communities in Pakistan are living in “fear and terror” of Islamic fundamentalists amid abductions and forced conversions that the government is helpless to stop, the World Council of Churches (WCC) said on Wednesday.
A statement from the WCC's ruling Central Committee declared that Pakistan's small Hindu and Christian communities were increasingly subject to “persecution and discrimination”, with mounting Islamisation of a formerly more secular nation.
“Today a significant number of young women of religious minorities ... face violence, including sexual assault, rape, threats and persecution,” said the WCC - an influential global organisation of all Christian faiths except Roman Catholics.
These women were “abducted, confined, converted to Islam and forced to marry Muslim men,” while the authorities “seem to be powerless to stop the Islamist fundamentalist forces that are responsible...and are freely operating,” the WCC said.
The minority communities, the Geneva-based group added, “are living in a state of fear and terror”.
The statement said minority faith leaders had constantly tackled the Pakistani authorities over the situation but they had been ignored. “This lack of protection of religious minorities by the government of Pakistan is unacceptable.”
There has been an international furore over the case of a young and reportedly mentally handicapped Christian girl arrested after a Pakistani imam asserted that she had “blasphemed” by burning pages of the Koran, Islam's holy book.
The imam's action was followed by anti-Christian riots in the village where she lived, leading thousands of Christians to flee the area.
After outside protests over the case, including from some governments, the imam was detained at the weekend after an aide reportedly said he had planted scorched Koran pages on the girl to provide a pretext to drive out Christians.
But supporters of the imam say he is innocent and that Christians should be burned. The girl herself remains in what police say is protective custody.
The affair has focused attention on the controversial blasphemy law in Pakistan. The WCC will hold a meeting on the law in Geneva later this month to coincide with a session of the UN Human Rights Council.