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Human rights campaigners and Canadian MP call for improved focus on plight of Pakistani religious minorities


During a rally organised to raise the plight of a young Christian woman who escaped persecution in Pakistan only to be re-persecuted in the nation of Thailand, human rights campaigners and MP Garnett Genuis called for enhanced focus on the plight of the long-suffering religious minorities of Pakistan.

The event was organised by Keri-Lynn Gibbs a resident of Edmonton, was moved by the plight of Maherwar Ishaq a Pakistani Christian asylum seeker stranded in Thailand, whose family was caught up under a blasphemy allegation after her 7 year old nephew's altercation with a Muslim child. Her nephew has a severe mental disability caused after he was hit by a train a few years before the incident. 
Later Maherwar was sexually assaulted after attempting to obtain a renewal of her Pakistani passport.  When British Pakistani Christian Association wrote a complaint to the Pakistani Government initially they balked over an investigation, however after pressure from a local Thai solicitor they eventually agreed to an interview of Maherwar with a chaperone. However the Officials from the Embassy called her stepbrother into their offices and threatened to kill Maherwar if she turned up for the interview.  Brave Maherwar attended an interview on Monday 26th September intent on getting justice, however she holds real fears that the death threats made were serious.  BPCA has placed her in a place of safety outside of Bangkok far from the watchful eyes of the Embassy and their cronies.

A prayer group called Wailing Women who represent several local churches called for God to help Maherwar.

The first key speaker at the event was Garnett Genuis who is the member of Parliament for Sherwood Park-Fort Saskatchewan.  Mr Genuis is also the Deputy Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs for the Conservative Official Opposition - an expert on the human rights conditions in Pakistan. Impassioned by the persecution faced by minorities in Pakistan which Mr Genuis understands personally through his wife a woman of Pakistan origin, he said:

"It was an honour to speak at the Rally for Maherwar at the Legislature today. Fundamental human‎ rights are under threat in many places around the world, but the plight of Pakistani religious minorities is particularly urgent, and it has not received anywhere near the appropriate level of international attention.

"I highlighted today that human rights and religious pluralism was the vision of Pakistan's founder - but the country has strayed far from that original vision. We are pushing the government of Canada to do more to prioritize human rights and religious freedom around the world."

L-R MP Garnett Genuis, Keri-Lynn Gibbs and Wilson Chowdhry Chairman of the BPCA

Mr Genuis was joined by the Chairman of the British Pakistani Christian Association, Wilson Chowdhry, who has been challenging western nations to change the way they engage with Pakistan since the inception of the BPCA in 2009.  He said:

"Pakistan was certainly founded on more egalitarian principles then is currently espoused in the nation, however political instability has weakened the resolve of democratically elected governments who cave in to the whim of Islamic extremists.  Moreover during frequent periods of military dictatorship the laws in the country have become extremely islamicized.

"Intolerance has swept the nation resulting in one of the worst human rights records of any ostensibly democratic country.

"One million Christian slaves are brutally indentured in brick kilns in Pakistan, over 50% of blasphemy allegations are laid against religious minorities and it is estimated that 700 Christian girls are kidnapped, raped and forced into Islamic every year. 

"It is therefore no wonder that Christians are fleeing Pakistan in their droves, especially after having been hit with 5 terrorists attacks in the last four years.  

"In the case of innocent Maherwar, I am astounded by the prevailing unprofessional conduct behaviour of Embassy officials.  Their threat to Maherwar only serves to highlight that she can never be safe in Pakistan and needs safe asylum.  Moreover it illustrates the religious chauvinism and bigotry in Pakistan has infected all levels of Pakistani society - a malaise that politicians and diplomats are clearly not immune to.

"I pray that a country in the west takes Maherwar to safety soon."

Organizer of the event Keri-Lynn Gibbs said:

"We need to speak up for displaced and vulnerable religious minorities who are subjected to abuses like face in Pakistan and the arbitrary incarceration they face in Thailand. We need to stand up for young women like Marherwar and honour the courage  she has shown throughout this whole ordeal.

"Our silence only contributes to the violence therefore we must not cower to intimidation and fear, but speak the truth about these realities and act in kindness towards those who are suffering." 

Keri-Lynn Gibbs and the BPCA are seeking a 'Sponsorship Agreement Holder' to bring Maherwar to Canada under the 'Private Sponsorship Programme' for asylum seekers and refugees.

Later during evening MP Genuis joined BPCA and Pakistani Christians leaders within Canada at a round table discussion on the plight of Pakistani Christians.  During the meeting Jason Kenny the former Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, spoke to attendees in a telephoone conference call.  

Mr Kenney initiated the creation of the Office of Religious Freedom in 2011, an agency of Foreign Affairs Canada, to monitor religious oppression domestically and promote religious freedom internationally.

During the call Mr Kenney spoke of his meeting with slain former Pakistani Minister for Minorities Shabaz Bhatti, the only Christian to ever be elected to Federal Ministry.  He said:

"Shahbaz had told me about the threat to his life and we offered sanctuary in Canada but he refused asylum stating that if he left Pakistan no-one would be left to protect vulnerable minorities in Pakistan.  Organized various meetings with the Pope and other political leaders then he returned to Pakistan - He was killed 11 days later."

Mr Kenney said the death of Shahbaz Bhatti left a profound affect on him and that he had worked hard during his tenure with the Immigration depratment to ensure Pakistani Christian persecution was recognized by the Canadian Government.

Mr Kenney has agreed to meet with Wilson Chowdhry in Calgary to provide advice and support.

At the same time as this peaceful request for asylum for Christians in Pakistan, a clash was occuring on the border of Quebec with the US, between Storm Alliance who were  joined by Wolf Pack for an anti-sharia and anti-immigrant protest and anti-fascist groups.  Mr Chowdhry is fearful of the rise of Islamic extremism in the West and it's impact on social harmony (click here).  He said: 

"Christians from Pakistan are able to assimilate well in the west. They are brought up with the same Judeo-Christian principles as people here are hardworkng and most have a good grasp of English.  They would contribute to society and are proven to be hardworking they would illustrate how migrants can help create a richer cultural diversity."

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