Two hundred Christian families remain homeless in Pakistan’s capital of Islamabad after a government agency bulldozed their homes and the church building they used for Sunday worship.
The government’s Capital Development Authority demolished the homes in a Christian area, Nawaz Sharif Colony in Islamabad, the U.K.-based group Centre for Legal Aid, Assistance and Settlement (CLAAS-UK), said in a statement to The Christian Post.
Christian residents had not been given any warning or time to remove their belongings before the demolition on Oct. 18, the group said in the statement this week, adding that the government agency also demolished a church, “but thankfully, there were no injuries or fatalities.”
The government has not provided any alternative place for the residents to live.
“These Christians have lost everything — their homes and all of their worldly possessions,” the group’s director, Nasir Saeed, said. “Many of them have lived in the colony for years, raising their families here and investing their life savings into building and maintaining their homes.”
Saeed added that the demolition came soon after the devastating floods in the country and an approaching winter.
More than 1,700 people were killed and hundreds of thousands of homes were damaged or destroyed in the monsoon floods, leading the government, which estimated losses to be worth $40 billion, to declare a state of emergency on Aug. 25.
“It is imperative that the Pakistani government financially compensate the Christians who have lost their homes and provide them with somewhere else to live,” Saeed said.
The home of a former councillor, Sabra Saeed Athwal, was also demolished. She called the demolition “a criminal act” and expressed fears that two other Christian colonies — Akram Gill and Rimsha — could also be demolished.
Athwal also fears that some extremist Muslims might have put pressure on the government agency to demolish the Christians' homes, CLAAS-UK said.
“This injustice has happened as Christians in Pakistan and around the world prepare to celebrate Christmas in just a few weeks,” Saeed added.
Open Doors USA ranks Pakistan as the eighth-worst country in the world when it comes to Christian persecution. The U.S. State Department has named Pakistan on its list of “countries of particular concern” that tolerate or engage in egregious violations of religious freedom.
Dozens of individuals are imprisoned on blasphemy charges in Pakistan. The country’s blasphemy laws, embedded in Sections 295 and 298 of the Pakistan Penal Code, are often misused for personal revenge. And it carries no provision to punish a false accuser or a false witness.
Islamist extremists also abuse the law to target religious minorities — Christians, Shi’as, Ahmadiyyas and Hindus.
The world’s attention was drawn to Pakistan’s blasphemy law after Asia Bibi, a Christian mother of five, was sentenced to death and served over 10 years in prison before Pakistan’s Supreme Court acquitted her in 2018. Her acquittal drew the ire of radical extremist groups, as many protested in the streets and threatened to kill the Supreme Court justices responsible for setting her free.