From hardship to hardship: the reality of life for Pakistani Christian asylum seekers

AP

It is an alarming situation for any state when its minority citizens start to look for a new homeland and this is exactly what is happening with the Christians of Pakistan.

The living conditions and intolerance towards their faith has brought some of them to the brink of relocating outside Pakistan.

In my last article published on 22 January 2014, titled Pakistani Christians in search of a new homeland, I mentioned the problems and concerns which have made the lives of the Christians miserable and compelled them to leave their motherland.

In search of peace and practising their faith freely, the Christians of Pakistan in their limited resources are trying to seek asylum in Asian countries like Sri Lanka and Thailand. Not a good choice either, but probably a better opportunity to at least start living their lives normally. The thought of even leaving one's homeland out of despair and insecurity without knowing the future itself is horrific, then to actually have to do it is incredibly difficult.

However, being left with no other option, the Christians who faced tribulations due to their faith have left Pakistan and are now going through challenges of settlement in the new homelands.

Certain factors need to be taken into account while settling into a new place and in this situation it's a new homeland. Everything has to be started in a new way and the biggest challenge is to make friends and contacts especially in a situation where the people in the new place know your circumstances and the reason why you left your country.

I have been in touch with some asylum seekers now living in Bangkok, Thailand. One of them was very much willing to return to Pakistan but not now, as he has received more threats to his life.

Another person like Junaid Saqib, who had been an active political activist in Pakistan, sounded demoralised and harassed. He didn't know where to start in telling me about the problems that the Pakistani Christian asylum seekers are facing in Bangkok.

This is what he told me: "There are 80 families living in this one building consisting of around 250 persons. We have been facing problems from the Muslims living around us for more than three months now. But we were quiet as we thought that they would be friends with us, instead they have become bitter during the last three days."

I further asked him to describe me as to what kind of problems they were facing in the hands of these local people. He told me that when they go out, sometimes men carrying knives threaten them, and it is even happening in the building.

"It has been exactly three nights that we all couldn't sleep as we are so terrified that someone could attack us," an asylum seeker told me.

When I asked him if the people have contacted the UN to lodge their complaints, he replied that they have gone to the UN many times, but they didn't receive any firm response.

He burst into tears while talking about the hardships they are facing: "Our lives were like hell in Pakistan and here also we are living in worse conditions."

The irony is that some people have moved out from Pakistan along with their families, which have further added to the misery. The women especially are scared of going out even for food and now, in the wake of all the persistent threats, the men are afraid too. The security measures that the people have started to adopt themselves are just to be their own guard. They take the turns during the night to make it sure that they are being watched over by their fellows.

The other problem that is faced by these asylum seekers is the state of confusion about how they can stay there especially now in the midst of threats. They cannot even think of returning to Pakistan as they have already left the land out of threats and insecurities. Now, in the new land they are also facing if not similar but various problems again because of their faith. Every day they ask questions to themselves about their future and where they are going to be settled one day. Will they ever find a place they can call home? The truth is that these asylum seekers just need peace of mind in the form of a place where they can live freely. No one else but the UN can help them more effectively during this time. The UN must start playing its role more powerfully in order to address the problems faced by these asylum seekers of Pakistani Christians who have left their homeland out of fear and desperation. Now they deserve the peace and end to the problems for which they left Pakistan.

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