Christians in Pakistan Suffering Fallout From Iraq War

Girls Being Targeted, Say Rights Groups

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ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, JUNE 30, 2003 (Zenit.org).- Christians in Pakistan are paying the price for the U.S. invasion of Iraq, say their attackers.



The Washington Times reported that Christian girls in particular in this overwhelmingly Muslim country are feeling the fallout of Islamic anger for the war that deposed Saddam Hussein.

The newspaper (www.washtimes.com) told of photos showing signs of recent attacks.

One showed a 9-year-old girl with large black burns on her legs and a heavily bandaged right arm. Another depicted a 14-year-old with a face partly melted away like candle wax -- the result of an assailant throwing acid into her eyes.

The 9-year-old, Razia Masih, was beaten and raped in April in the town of Faisalabad, ending up in the hospital with burns, a lacerated left eye, a broken right arm and rope marks around her hands and mouth.

"She was working as a maid in a Muslim house," said Shabazz Bhatti, chairman of the All Pakistan Minorities Alliance, the Times reported.

"When the Iraq war happened, it was on the TV," Bhatti said. "The family [she worked for] would call her into the TV room and start torturing her. Her skin was burned by the irons, her body wounded by a cricket bat and a medical report showed 15 wounds on her body. She was told by them, 'You are Christian and infidel, and we will take revenge on you for the killings of Iraqi children.'"

"The case has been registered [with police], but the culprits have not been arrested," Bhatti said. "Meanwhile, the girl's family has fled elsewhere, just to save their lives. The government authorities are not giving them protection."

According to International Christian Concern, a religious-persecution watchdog group, the girl's family had unsuccessfully tried to get her out of her employers' home several times. After beating and burning her for a final time, the family sent her home to die.

The All Pakistan Minorities Alliance, representing Christian, Hindu, Sikh, Balmeek, Bheel, Maingwal, Zoroastrian, Bahai and Kelash communities, has compiled a "catalogue of terror" on attacks against female Christians, beginning with the May 2000 gang rape of eight Christian girls by militant Muslims near Lahore.

"Christians in Pakistan are increasingly vulnerable to religiously motivated hate crimes, and Christian girls and women seem to be specially targeted," said Stuart Windsor, director of Christian Solidarity Worldwide in London. "We are outraged by the unwillingness of the police to investigate the complaints as this only emboldens extremists to continue to victimize Christians and other non-Muslims."

Fearing such reprisals, the U.S. Commission on Religious Freedom wrote Secretary of State Colin Powell in March, asking him to remind foreign governments of their responsibility to protect religious minorities. There are only about 3 million Christians among Pakistan's 140 million citizens.

"The commission is concerned that extremists have tried to portray military action against Iraq as part of an alleged U.S. attack on Islam," they wrote, "and that retribution will be sought against Christians, Jews and others throughout the Islamic world."

The panel also asked President George W. Bush to bring up the matter with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf during their meeting Tuesday near Washington, D.C.