The government in Pakistan celebrated the Taliban’s rise to power in Afghanistan, a senior priest has said, stressing that “the brotherhood of the two countries” means they are prejudiced against Christians and other non-Muslims.
Speaking to Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), Father Mushtaq Anjum, the only Pakistani priest of the Order of St Camillus, explained that, following the Taliban’s victory, Christians are under serious threat.
He said: “The threat against them [Christians] has increased, since our government supports the victory of the Taliban in Afghanistan.”
The priest added: “Both Afghanistan and Pakistan consider the United States as an enemy. There is a deep-seated hatred of western countries where Christians compose a sizable proportion of the population.
“The brotherhood of the countries is based on Surah Al-Ma’idah 5:51 of the Qur’an, which warns believers against becoming allies of Jews and Christians. It is largely because of the Taliban that religious minorities in Pakistan and Afghanistan live a subdued life.”
Pakistan’s Ministry of Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony last month rejected a bill which sought to prohibit forced conversion of any individual of a religious minority, particularly underage girls, on the grounds that it “clashes with Islamic Shari‘a”.
Father Anjum said: “We have always complained of mob rule and about the controversial blasphemy law which has been grossly abused, with many people making false accusations to settle personal scores, to obtain the victim’s property, or to attack the person’s faith.
“We have always demanded that the majority of Muslims should respect and accept religious diversity in Pakistan…
“Pakistani Islam has always been different from that of other Muslim-majority countries. Indonesia, for example, also has a blasphemy law but maintains the overall rule of law. Sadly, Pakistan is an Islamic state where the law is enforced only on the poor.”
Father Anjum noted that the 22nd September was the eighth anniversary of the twin suicide bombing of All Saints Church, Peshawar, which killed at least 85 and left more than 140 wounded.
He said: “Such attacks on churches and minority communities illustrate that Pakistan has always been receptive to fundamentalism.”
The clergyman added: “I am afraid many Taliban will return to Pakistan and exploit Islamist extremism, pushing Pakistani terror groups to step up attacks.
“They thrive on violence. The government should ensure protection of churches and minority places of worship before their arrival.”