Christians in Pakistan fear advance of Islamic State

Christians across the country took to the streets to protest after the bombing of All Saints Church, Peshawar.(Photo: World Watch Monitor)

Persecution in Pakistan will get worse, according to a special edition of the Diocese of Peshawar's newsletter – and if Islamic State gains ground in the country, as it is rumoured to be planning, what has happened so far will only be the "tip of the iceberg".

The Frontier News for November contains a harrowing list of 22 attacks on Christians who have been beaten, raped and murdered since 2013. It includes the suicide bombing of All Saints Church in northwestern Pakistan that killed at least 119 people in September 2013, the attack on an illiterate vendor beaten by a mob for unwittingly using pages containing Koranic verses, and the torture of a Christian by extremists attempting to force him to convert to Islam.

It also refers to the deaths of Shama Bibi and her husband, Shahbaz Masih, burnt in a brick kiln after allegations of blasphemy. An editorial comment says: "This section of the law is always used, rather misused against the Christians for their persecution and extra-judicial killings in Pakistan."

It quotes the Bishop of Peshawar, Rt Rev Mano Rumalshah, who said after the killing that it was a "national disgrace". He added: "The Christians of Pakistan are law abiding and peaceful citizens and they respect other people's beliefs. The Christians believe in peaceful co- existence of different religions and always play a proactive and positive role for interfaith harmony in the region."

The All Minority Alliance protested against the killings and called on the government to protect minorities against attacks.

The newsletter warned that a "turbulent journey" was ahead for the Christians of Pakistan, saying: "Nowadays talking against the Blasphemy Law in any manner has itself become a blasphemy act. This is just the tip of the iceberg, things are likely to get worse as there are rumors of the presence of an extremist group called "Daish" (ISIS) in Pakistan."