Category Archives: Thailand

Pakistani Christians in Thailand Need Help

Outrage is building over the treatment of Pakistani Christian refugees in Bangkok. I wrote about this issue last month, and now the BBC has also taken it up, in a documentary about their plight.

Over recent years the persecution of Christians in Pakistan has been intensifying, with the result that more than 10,000 have fled to Thailand seeking asylum. But in numerous cases they are arrested and jailed in Bangkok’s over-crowded immigration detention center. Using a hidden camera, a BBC journalist documented the oppressive conditions being endured by these Christians.

He was able to show some of the hundreds of asylum seekers being held in stifling heat. They include mothers, detained with their children. Many of the children are suffering from diarrhoea and vomiting, due to the poor sanitation and dirty drinking water

Those of the refugees who are not in prison must often live in cramped apartments and survive on hand-outs from churches and charities, or by engaging in illegal work activities.

Meanwhile, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is taking years to process their claims for refugee status. Some observers say that UNHCR officials do not even regard the Pakistanis as being at a real risk of persecution in their home country.

It raises the question of why these Christians feel impelled to make the leap from the Pakistani frying pan into the Thai fire. When they realize that their fate is long years in Bangkok, unable to work legally and relying on hand-outs, and possibly even months in a detention center, why do they not simply return home?

It is not difficult to find reasons. For example, three years ago in March 2013 a mob of 3,000 Muslims attacked Joseph Colony, a Christian neighbourhood in Lahore, setting fire to more than 170 homes and two churches. Also in Lahore, just one year ago, suicide bombers attacked two churches, killing 21 worshippers and injuring more than 70.

The BBC report provided further graphic examples. It featured a man named Sabir who fled Pakistan two years ago with his extended family. They now all live – 10 people – in a room with no kitchen or toilet. The UNHCR has said it will not investigate his case until 2018. Two months ago his wife was arrested.

Yet he proclaims that he does not regret leaving Pakistan, where his family was threatened with death if they did not convert to Islam. “Over here, the only fear we have is of the immigration police, nothing else,” he told the BBC.

The BBC journalist also met a pastor who says Islamists tried to cut off his arm and his sister was burned alive, as punishment for converting to Christianity.

But the online BBC report was able to end on a note of hope. It quoted a Pakistani Christian man named Daniel: “Jesus said to us, ‘if someone troubles you, don’t ask for curses for him, instead, you should ask for blessings for him.’ So, we ask for blessings for the UNHCR.”

We must pray that the same spirit of love and reconciliation might quickly touch the hearts of all officials in Thailand.

A Quiet Tragedy – Pakistani Christians Seeking Refuge in Thailand

The impact of the massive wave of Christian refugees from the Middle East has been so overwhelming that, sadly, we too often forget that Christian refugee groups are suffering in other parts of the world.

“Never have so many Christians been on the move as a result of war and persecution,” says the Open Doors organization, and it notes what it describes as some “quiet tragedies.” One of these is the exodus of Pakistani Christians to Thailand.

The suffering of Pakistan’s Christians – including physical attacks on Christians and their churches, the abduction, forced marriage and involuntary conversion to Islam of Christian girls, and blasphemy laws that can lead to arrests of Christians on fabricated charges – appears to be intensifying.

In the 2016 Open Doors World Watch List of the 50 countries where Christians are most persecuted for their faith Pakistan is ranked sixth – up from eighth a year earlier – with the designation “extreme persecution.”

One consequence has been a steady flow of Pakistani Christians escaping their country and seeking asylum in Thailand.

According to Open Doors, about 10,000 Pakistani Christians have fled to Thailand, many of them quite recently. And here, it says, is where the real tragedy begins: “ They are badly treated and are refused refugee status by the government, so they are not allowed to work and are subject to police intimidation and forced to rely on handouts and sporadic work. Unfortunately, even Thai churches are wearying of the burden of supporting them.”

One group that is working to assist is the British Pakistani Christian Association, which recently published a lengthy report titled “Education, Human Rights Violations in Pakistan and the Scandal Involving UNHCR [United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees] and Christian Asylum Seekers in Thailand.” (The report is sold at the Association’s website, www.britishpakistanichristians.org.)

The report says that UNHCR is dragging its feet when it comes to processing Pakistani refugees, many of whom must wait years before their refugee status can be determined.

Another advocacy group for Pakistani Christians, the Farrukh Saif Foundation, is actually preparing a lawsuit against UNHCR, asking: “Why does UNHCR keep the Pakistani Christian asylum seekers on hold for four to five years, making them hostages, and not resolving their cases at the earliest according to their own guidelines, so that these people won´t be living in a limbo for years with false hopes and illusion of being protected and resettled?”

Fortunately, not all Thai churches are weary of the Pakistani influx. A local pastor known as Papa Thongchai runs the Urdu Church in Hands of God, which provides a special ministry to Pakistanis in Bangkok.

But this is just one small stream into an ocean of rising despair. Such recent headlines as “Bangkok, the Silent Graveyard of Pakistani Christians” and “Asylum-Seeking Christian Mom Dies in Thailand Police Detention on Christmas Eve” foreshadow a growing tragedy that must no longer be kept quiet.