The human rights activist Peter Tatchell has added his voice to those of the many people alarmed over the persecution of Christians in Pakistan. Tatchell said he was particularly shocked by the news of the gang rape of a twelve-year-old girl from a Christian family who was then forcibly 'married' to one of the rapists.
Christian, Muslim and secular human rights groups have all expressed alarm over the treatment of Christians in Pakistan in recent months. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, is among those who have spoken out about the situation.
The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) reported yesterday (10 October) that Christian parents who had rescued a child victim of gang rape – known as “Anna” - from her abductors had received no help from the police. According to the Commission, the police encouraged them to give her up to her “legal husband”, after one of the rapists produced a wedding certificate.
The AHRC said that that it has become a “common practice” in Pakistan for certain groups to “abduct girls from religious minority groups and rape them”. They added, “When caught, they produce marriage certificates and even then do not allow them to meet their parents”.
Tatchell described the incident as “the latest example of anti-Christian persecution in Pakistan”. He said this includes “attacks on churches and the homes of Christians; discrimination in housing, education and employment; and false allegations of blasphemy, which can potentially result in a death sentence”.
Tatchell is an atheist who has frequently spoken out in favour of religious liberty. He has condemned the prejudice promoted against Muslims in Britain and elsewhere.
He told Ekklesia, "While many people are rightly speaking out against anti-Muslim prejudice and victimisation, very few are taking a stand against the equally reprehensible victimisation of Pakistani Christians”.
Tatchell added, “Islamophobia and Christianophobia are moral evils, which infringe the basic human right of freedom of religion and belief”.