Tragedy in Peshawar

Christians in Peshawar protest after the bomb attack.

Christians in Peshawar protest after the bomb attack.

On 22 September, a huge bomb attack at a church in Peshawar killed more than 80 people. It was the worst attack on Christians in Pakistan’s history. I wrote a piece for the Guardian about the attack, giving some background about the persecution of Christians in the country:

It is these major incidents that make international news, but a low level of discrimination is a fact of life for many of Pakistan’s religious minorities. Christians make up around 1.6% of the population and number around 2.8 million. Generations ago, in pre-partition India, many were Hindus, subsequently converting from the very lowest caste (of dalit, once known as “untouchable”). Pakistan – a largely Muslim state – does not have a caste system, but its shadow can be seen in the treatment of Christians today.

On the same day, I wrote a piece for the New Humanist magazine, recalling my experiences of researching the persecution of religious minorities in Pakistan (a subject I’ve done a lot of work on – notably with this feature from 2011).

In various interviews with Christians in different cities of Pakistan, I have been struck by the lack of anger. Most quietly accept their lot, aware that they lack the political clout to agitate for change. “We are very few in a big nation, so we try to stay out of trouble,” one young man, working as a domestic servant, told me in Karachi. “Politicians don’t give us any importance.”

I also appeared on the BBC World Service radio show World Have Your Say on 24 September, speaking about the attack in Peshawar, the siege of the Westgate mall in Nairobi, and whether there has been a rise in global terror.

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