Aid Agency Decries Attacks on Pakistani Christians

Laments Torture and Rape of 12-Year-Old

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LAHORE, Pakistan, FEB. 1, 2010 ( Aid to the Church in Need is decrying the rape and torture of a 12-year-old Pakistani Christian that led to her death.

Neville Kyrke-Smith, the U.K. national director for the aid agency, spoke out against the violent death of Shazia Bashir, who died Jan. 22 in a Lahore hospital after her employer allegedly raped and tortured her.

The girl, who was from a poor Catholic family, was working as a servant for a lawyer, Chaudry Muhammad Neem, in Lahore.

The aid agency reported that Bashir’s parents had been forbidden to see her for several days before her death.

Kyrke-Smith stated: «As in so many parts of the world, Christians are degraded, abused or suffer appallingly for being seen as outsiders, the lowest of the low or associated with the West.
«They feel unprotected — and such a terrible case shows the need for our solidarity in faith and action.»

The agency’s press release noted that Archbishop Lawrence Saldanha of Lahore, chairman of the country’s Justice and Peace Commission, and Peter Jacob, the executive secretary, stated that this act of violence is not an isolated occurrence. Rather, they affirmed that servants are frequently victims of these attacks.

The perfect victim

Francis Mehboob Sada, director of the Rawalpindi-based Christian Study Center, told Fides: «The tragic case of Shazia will not be the last. It’s very sad. The girl was tortured and killed for no reason.
«She was young, weak and Christian, hence, the perfect victim. We are indignant over a situation which is untenable.»

He added: «Christians in society, especially poor families, suffer all forms of violence and bullying. We have documented a litany of cases that bear witness to this.

«The police and the government do not do much to protect us and often many cases end in impunity.»

Aid to the Church in Need reported that the police initially refused to take action on the Bashir case, but both Christians and Muslims launched a three-hour protest, forcing the authorities to follow through.

The Jan. 25 funeral was attended by thousands, including leaders of various religions.

The girl’s employer was brought to court in connection with her death, but the hearing was adjourned until Wednesday.

Kyrke-Smith pointed out that «the human rights and dignity of Christians in Pakistan are frequently abused.»

He continued, «This terrible case shows the need for Aid to the Church in Need to deepen our support for Christian communities in Pakistan and to exert pressure on the government.»

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