Last weekend, as Christians around the world celebrated Easter Sunday, many in Pakistan were no doubt remembering a day of similar celebration five years ago – one that sadly turned into a day of horror and mourning.
On that day in 2016, suicide bombers carried out an attack targeting Christians who had gathered to celebrate in the Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park in Lahore. Over 72 people were killed, and around 300 more were injured.
On the fifth anniversary of the attacks, CSW spoke to several of those whose lives were changed forever on that day, and who continue to await justice.
Continue reading ““Souls were scarred that day”: Remembering the Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park Easter Sunday bombings”
Sri Lanka and India are facing pivotal moments, both for their future, and the future of South Asia as a whole. Both countries’ drives towards religious hegemony have left little place for Christians and Muslims, a factor which will certainly lead to more instability and intolerance in the region.
Sri Lanka: Buddhist
Sri Lanka was the site of the 2019 Easter Sunday bombings, in which over 250 people were killed when terrorists targeted a number of churches and hotels across the country. In the aftermath of the bombings, there were reports of violent attacks against Muslims and an increase in anti-Muslim prejudice. Some reprisals against the Muslim population have been carried out by Christians, in contrast to the previous relative harmony between the two communities as they both battled intolerance from sections of the Sinhalese Buddhist population.
Furthermore, Buddhist nationalist groups such as the Bodu
Bala Sena (BBS), who have been portraying Islam as a threat to both Buddhism
and Sri Lanka for years, consider their stance vindicated by the bombings.
Continue reading “A Fork in the Road: What lies ahead for religious minorities in Sri Lanka, India and South Asia?”
No case highlights the fervour and frustration associated with blasphemy more than that of Asia Noreen (better known as Asia Bibi), the Pakistani Christian woman who was falsely accused of blasphemy and sentenced to death in 2010.
Throughout Bibi’s protracted legal case, the worst instincts of certain sections of Pakistani society were brought to the fore and played out in national and international media as Islamist groups staged violent demonstrations calling for her execution on multiple occasions, even after her conviction was overturned by the Supreme Court in 2018. Following a nine-year ordeal, Asia Bibi and her family were eventually taken to Canada to start a new life, but for many other victims their fate is less hopeful, and they are left languishing under long jail sentences, prolonged when cases are adjourned without hearing.
Continue reading “Long read: The forgotten faces and hidden history of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws”
In the run-up to Human Rights Day on 10 December and the 20th anniversary of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders on 9 December, CSW has been speaking with HRDs across South Asia to find out what it means to be a FoRB defender in the region.
Fatima Atif is a human rights defender working in Pakistan:
“Pakistan has a population of over 210 million people, with a wide range of ethnic, religious, sectarian and tribal identities. This diversity makes Pakistan a challenging place to live, particularly for those who are in minority and have limited say and access to decision and policy-making forums.
I have worked as a human rights defender in Pakistan for 15 years. I have regularly faced bullying and online harassment for my work, as well as for being a female Hazara activist. (Editor’s Note: The Hazara are a minority community in Pakistan who adhere to the Shi’a branch of Islam).
The security situation in the country is volatile and there are multiple rival armed opposition groups fuelling armed conflict in different regions of the country. In this tug of war, only innocent citizens have been brutally killed and victimized.
Continue reading “FoRB on the Frontlines: In the face of government opposition”
‘For 65 years we have tolerated aggression against us so something must have drastically gone wrong that day for that to happen.’
Walking into Youhanabad on the outskirts of Lahore you notice the busyness of life; children playing, street vendors selling fruit and delicious fried snacks and motorbikes and scooters whizzing pass. Two years ago that the scene was transformed – chaos, carnage and confusion ensued on the morning of Sunday 15th March in 2015 when two suicide bombers approached Christ Church and St John’s Catholic Church and blew themselves up killing 15 and injuring around 70 people. After the bombing a mob was instigated, protest turned into violence and violence resulted in two people being lynched.
Continue reading “Youhanabad: This Is Our Land, This Is Our Spirit”
‘Within a few minutes victims became aggressors’