Taliban Resurgence Worries Pakistani Christians

The Taliban resurgence in Pakistan's North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) has jeopardized the lives of thousands of Christians who fear "abductions" and the imposition of "jiziya" tax that has already forced the Sikh community to flee for refuge.

Last week, 150 Sikhs and Hindu families in Pakistan's NWFP and tribal areas moved to Punjab after the Taliban demolished houses and threatened to kill non-Muslims who failed to pay the religious tax sanctioned by shariah law.

According to Pakistan Christian Congress (PCC), there are more than 500,000 Christians in NWFP province who are living in fear of life and property.

PCC said Taliban bombed Christian Schools in Swat Valley and forced thousands of Christians to convert to Islam or to pay tax levied to non-Muslims.

This has led to scores of Christians from the Peshawar, Nowshera, Mardan, Sawabi and Charsadda districts of NWFP province to flee for refuge.

Some Christians were also attacked and executed after they peacefully protested against the anti-Christian slogans Taliban wrote on the walls of churches and homes. Some read: "Taliban Zindabad," "Pay Jazia," "Christians are infidel," and "Convert to Islam."

Nazir S. Bhatti, president of PCC, said he was disappointed in the killing of Christians and the mass migration of Christian families. He also condemned the silence of India and international forums.

"PCC shall write a letter to India through Indian Ambassador in USA, President of EU and President Obama to press upon Pakistan to secure life and property of millions of Christians in Pakistan before President Zardari-President Obama meeting of May 6, 2009, in White House, Washington DC," Dr. Nazir Bhatti said.

Obama met with Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and Afghan President Hamid Karzai at the White House on Wednesday and said all three have committed to dismantle and defeat al Qaeda and the Taliban.

Zardari of Pakistan last month approved a deal that allows local Muslim leaders with close ties to the Taliban to administer justice based on shariah, or Islamic law, in the Malakand area, which includes terrorist hotspot Swat Valley, in exchange for an end to fighting. Taliban militants, however, refused to disarm. A Taliban spokesman recently said they will push to have shariah law throughout the country.

On Monday, Pakistani Christians in Holland protested against the attack on churches and killing of Christians.

The protesters carried play cards and banners that read, "Stop desecration of Church and killing of Christian in Pakistan," "We condemn injustice with Minorities," and "Pakistan government should protect Christians."

During the protest in front of the Embassy of Islamic Republic of Pakistan in Holland, they demanded that the government curb terrorism and arrest those attacking Christians and their belongings.

Similar campaigns are underway in the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada, where the Pakistani Christian Diaspora will protest against the Taliban attacks.

Last week, the Asia Evangelical Alliance called on the Pakistan government to "provide adequate protection to the minority groups within the country and to take necessary action to stop the rise of militancy in the county."

"AEA also urges Christians across the globe to pray for political stability in Pakistan and for adequate and effective measures to be taken to check the rise of militancy in the region."