Christians have 10 Days to Convert to Islam in Pakistan

Christians in Charsadda, a town in North-West Frontier Province in Pakistan, have been warned that if they do not convert to Islam by 17 May they will face "dire consequences and bomb explosions", Christian Today has learned.

The threats were made in a letter circulated last week to the town's Christian population, according to the All Pakistan Minorities Alliance.

They come as Pakistan's National Assembly overwhelmingly rejected proposed amendments to the blasphemy laws, which were tabled by a minority representative Member of Parliament, Mr Bhandara. On 8 May, the Government led the movement in the National Assembly to defeat the reforms.

Under the existing blasphemy laws, anyone convicted of blasphemy against the Prophet Mohammad faces life imprisonment or the death penalty, according to section 295C of the Pakistan Penal Code.

Mr Bhandara, a Parsi, proposed a bill which would amend the penalty for blasphemy against the Prophet Mohammad to a five year prison sentence and a fine. He also proposed applying the law to other religions, not only Islam.

His proposals were greeted with cries of "shame" from Government and opposition benches and were rejected by the Parliamentary Affairs Minister as un-Islamic. "Islam is our religion and such bills hurt our feelings. This is not a secular state but the Islamic Republic of Pakistan," the Minister said according to Christian Solidarity Worldwide.

In a statement, APMA said: "Christians and other religious minorities are being roped into false cases under the blasphemy law. They are being murdered by zealots ... This law is proving to be a sword hanging on the heads of non-Muslims and secular-minded people.

"The blasphemy law needs to be amended, if not altogether repealed, because of its great misuse. The law has created an atmosphere of bigotry and intolerance ...a sense of insecurity and harassment."

Commenting on the threats made to Christians in North-West Frontier Province, APMA said: "The Christians of Pakistan are already facing victimisation and discrimination. Many innocent Christians are incarcerated and killed.

"Attacks on churches, Christian schools and other institutions have been experienced by the Christians of Pakistan in the past few years, and now the rise of vigilante groups and threats have aggravated the situation."

Stuart Windsor, Christian Solidarity Worldwide's National Director, said: "We are deeply concerned about the rise of extremism in Pakistan, and the threats made to Christians in North-West Frontier Province.

"We urge the Pakistani authorities to do everything possible to create an atmosphere of religious tolerance and freedom and to protect religious minorities who are facing threats and ultimatums. We urge the Government of Pakistan to recognise the gross misuse of the blasphemy laws and the urgent need for their reform, or repeal."