My Plight as a Pakistani Refugee Family

 

By A Pakistani Christian


I was brought up in the northern area near the Afghan border where from childhood we had to defend our Christian faith, being questioned continuously daily.

It became my nature to indulge in such conversations but over time people became more hostile so we would try to keep away from them.


 

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Danger at work

I started working for the church in 2003 and since money was not the biggest goal of my life, I was very happy with the job. I ran a project in earthquake affected areas which were mostly for the Muslim community. I ran a camp for displaced people from Swat, a mountainous region, when the conflict with Taliban arose. We served 100 families for almost 2 months. Other than this I had to manage other projects for the Christian youth, training them for different skills. If it had not become dangerous for the church, I would have stayed there longer.

In 2010 while I was on an official visit in my work for the church I knew our presence was not welcome by the hard-line Muslims there but were protected by the locals and the Pakistan army. One evening three men visited me. In the course of the conversation they started preaching about Islam and knowing my Christian background ( my grandfather was a Christian convert and became a renowned theologian. He translated some parts of the Old and New Testaments into the regional language Pashto and also wrote many hymns) asked me to renounce Christianity. When I refused they started threatening me. I asked them to leave and do whatever they wanted to do. Later that evening friends advised me to leave the area which I did after two days.

No escape

After this incident I heard they were looking for me even wherever I happened to be which caused me to change my job and house. Their threats were so severe that it caused my mother to have a cardiac arrest. Two years later in 2012 they came looking for me again. This time my father encountered them in a shop. As a result of the pressure my father suffered a heart attack. In 2013 we finally decided to move to Lahore. But even there, on the second night of our arrival, two men broke into our house and tried to kidnap me and threatened to kill us. Even though I filed a complaint with the police, friends advised us to leave the country as threats would not stop; as seen in the fact that even after two and a half years, they were still looking for me. Even the police advised us to leave as they were unable to protect us, knowing that Muslim extremists believe it is their duty to kill every convert as a matter of honour.

My bishop who wrote a reference for me stated, “over a period of time our society in Pakistan has become somewhat intolerant towards other faiths. Life is becoming difficult for the religious minority communities. There is a job scarcity and difficulty for the minority communities to initiate their own businesses thus survival for already marginalized is becoming difficult. XX’s family religious background is inviting trouble for him and in a long run he may face difficulties”.

I realized that wherever I go in Pakistan, I will be known as a convert or blasphemer, a target for the extremists. Even the FIR (First Information Report to the police) stated that I was preaching Christianity which is a criminal offence under the law. This means there is no place in Pakistan where I can work and distance my past. Once mired in this quicksand the end is inevitable. I had to get out of Pakistan to survive. In 2013 I got a tourist visa to go to Thailand where I applied for Refugee status from UNHCR headquarters in Bangkok. I felt discrimination when the staff noted that I was “Christian”. After two months I went to Malaysia where it was easier to communicate in English. The UNHCR staff in Kuala Lumpur seems similarly discriminatory towards Christians.

Still waiting

It is now three years of waiting for my RSD (Refugee Status Determination) . I don’t know how long it would take to process my application. I am worried about the education of my three young children. How long can I survive working illegally and without any healthcare ? I hope to get an Australian proposer who will then make it possible for me to apply to the Australian government for a Humanitarian Visa. 

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