Christian refugee charged with blasphemy beaten by radical Muslims in grocery store

A Pakistani soldier keeps guard at the Friendship Gate, crossing point at the Pakistan-Afghanistan border town of Chaman, Pakistan, March 7, 2017.
A Pakistani soldier keeps guard at the Friendship Gate, crossing point at the Pakistan-Afghanistan border town of Chaman, Pakistan, March 7, 2017. | REUTERS/Saeed Ali Achakzai/Files

A Pakistani Christian asylum seeker in hiding in Thailand says he was attacked by a group of radical Muslims at a grocery store two days before Christmas as his family has faced years of hurdles in their quest for resettlement. 

Faraz Pervaiz, a ministry leader who often posted criticisms of Islam online, fled from Pakistan in 2014 after radical Muslims grew enraged by videos he and his father posted. Following pressure from Muslims groups, the Pakistani government filed a criminal blasphemy case against Pervaiz in 2017.

Although Pakistan is known for imprisoning more people for blasphemy than any other country, Pervaiz told The Christian Post that his case is the first instance in the history of Pakistan’s blasphemy law that the state itself registered a blasphemy case against someone. 

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Additionally, Pervaiz is the subject of two bounties that have radical Muslims in Bangkok eager to cash in on the reward.

The first bounty is the equivalent of $62,000 issued by the political party Tahreek-e-Labbaik in Pakistan over a year-and-a-half ago. Then last January, a radical cleric who sympathizes with the Taliban placed a bounty on Pervaiz’s head equal to about $124,000. 

Since the location of Pervaiz’s Bangkok residence was disclosed online last July by a Muslim refugee, he and his family have been subject to increased death threats. Despite years of pleading with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to be resettled, he feels the entity and the international community are failing his family in their time of great need. 

“I am in a situation where we are helpless here,” Pervaiz explained in a recent phone interview. “Actually it's not the fault of UNHCR. This is the fault of my people, my Christian community. They are not taking any serious measures for our safety.” 

The increased threats against his life came to a head last Dec. 23. 

Pervaiz said that he was on his way to his parents’ house when he stopped at a local Indian grocery store to buy sweets for his parents and his four siblings detained at Bangkok’s Immigration Detention Centre. When he entered the store, he was confronted by a Muslim refugee he knew named Muhamad.

According to Pervaiz, Muhamad had come to him last April to be baptized in the name of Christ. Although Muhamad was baptized in front of the Pervaiz’s congregation, the baptism turned out to be a ploy by Muhamad to get more intelligence on how Pervaiz and his father were running their ministry. 

Once Pervaiz entered the store on Dec. 23, he said, Muhamad approached him and said that Pervaiz needed to die because he is “blasphemous.” 

“He said that no one damaged Islam like [my family has] in the 72 years of in the history of Pakistan,” he recalled. 

After a verbal argument, Muhamad used his cell phone to call fellow Muslims to come to the store so they could attack Pervaiz. In little time, three of Muhamad’s colleagues arrived. 

“Without wasting any time, immediately they approached the shop while I was picking up the stuff from there,” Pervaiz said. “They started beating me very hard with the punches. They were like hungry lions. They jumped on me.”

During the attack, the men pressed down hard on his spine and throat. But with the help of two Christian asylum seekers who entered the store and the elderly shopkeeper, Pervaiz escaped.

According to Pervaiz, the men chased him to his car. The car, he said, was gifted to him by a friend who was concerned that he needed a safe way to get around the city without being attacked.

As the men beat on the car, Pervaiz drove off. He said he kept driving until he was outside the city. 

“They brutally did their best to kill me,” he stressed. “I think my head bounty attracted that person.”  

After he fled, two of the Muslim men went to his parents’ house to harass and threaten the family. 

“They banged the door very [loudly] and they called my father to come out,” Pervaiz explained. “They said, ‘You and your son, Faraz, we will kill you.'”

Three of the men that attacked him in the grocery store are also registered with the United Nations as refugees, according to Pervaiz.

UNHCR’s confidentiality policy does not allow the entity to comment or even confirm the existence of individual asylum cases.

Pervaiz was treated at a nearby hospital two days later. According to a medical document issued by the hospital that was obtained by CP, he was treated for “an abrasion wound and contusion due to body assault.” 

Although he and his family have been registered with the UNHCR for years now, the family is no closer to being resettled to another country than they were five years ago. Meanwhile, other refugee families are being resettled at a much quicker rate, Pervaiz contended. 

“UNHCR, they never ever helped me to save me and my family,” he said. “The protection officer in the last conversation he said ‘Your case is very complicated.’”

Pervaiz has reason to believe that a high-level Pakistani government official may have spoken negatively about him in communications to the UNHCR. 

When he and his parents reached out to UNHCR to report the altercations on Dec. 23, not much help was offered from UNHCR except to suggest that the parents should move to a new residence for safety. 

UNHCR also compelled Pervaiz to remove 474 videos he posted online that were critical of Islam and offensive to some Muslims, he said. 

“That is my identity. Where is my freedom of expression?” he asked.  “Where is my liberty?” 

Pervaiz hasn’t had much luck finding help from various international Christian ministries devoted to helping persecuted Christians.

“There are many Christian groups where I feel like we are begging and they're ignoring,” he said. 

With his family in limbo, he continues to speak out publicly about his case in hopes it will produce better results for those in Pakistan whose blasphemy cases are ongoing. 

“I want to be their voice because their cases are scant like mine,” he said. 

Despite the trials and tribulations, Pervaiz still holds hope that his family’s situation will improve. 

“I believe when the Christian world reads this article and pray, God will make a way for me — as He did with the Israelites in the time of Exodus,” he stated. “I believe something is going to happen. We believe in miracles. God is going to do it in Jesus’ name.”

Follow Samuel Smith on Twitter: @IamSamSmith

or Facebook: SamuelSmithCP

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