Christians in Pakistan Face Death Threats from Taliban

Christians in North-West Frontier Province in Pakistan are facing fresh threats, including a message signed by the "Taliban's Detonative Department", after rejecting demands to convert to Islam.

The message was chalked on a wall opposite a church in Charsadda. It was signed by the "Taliban's Detonative Department" and reiterated an ultimatum previously circulated to the Christian community in a letter.

The letter warned the Christians to convert to Islam by 17 May 2007 or face "dire consequences and bomb explosions". The Christian community in Charsadda, numbering approximately 500 people, have rejected the ultimatum.

According to Christian Solidarity Worldwide's (CSW) sources, similar threats have been made to a Bible School in Peshawar, the capital of North-West Frontier Province.

On 18 May, a day after the deadline for conversion to Islam expired, more than 100 Christians in Charsadda signed a letter to President Pervez Musharraf and the Chief Minister of North-West Frontier Province, urging the authorities to provide proper security for the area in light of death threats made by extremists. The letter stated that some Christians have already fled the area due to lack of security.

According to the All Pakistan Minorities Alliance (APMA), "Islamic radicals are trying to impose Taliban-style social edicts in northwestern Pakistan".

They added that the extremists "are growing bolder, bombing audio and video shops, threatening barbers for trimming beards and warning hotels to remove televisions from guest rooms."

Last month, Pakistan's Interior Minister, Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao, "narrowly escaped" a suicide attack that killed 28 people in Charsadda, APMA reports.

Minorities in Charsadda are seeking ways to resolve the tension peacefully. APMA has established a Charsadda Peace Committee involving local Muslim and Christian leaders, to promote "inter-faith harmony, unity and tolerance". APMA has also appealed to Islamic scholars and Muslim leaders to condemn the threats to Christians.

Christian Solidarity Worldwide's National Director, Stuart Windsor, said: "We are deeply concerned about the situation in North-West Frontier Province, and we continue to monitor developments very closely. We urge the Pakistani authorities to do all they can to protect the Christians in Charsadda and throughout the country, and to prevent an outbreak of violence."