Amassing outside Geneva’s historic Palais Wilson on Saturday morning, approximately 200 demonstrators gathered to protest the brutal mistreatment of their Christian brothers and sisters in Pakistan. The Palais—a former hotel—now serves as the headquarters of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), a specialised UN agency dedicated to promoting, monitoring, and reporting on the respect of international human rights law and international humanitarian law.

Buzzing with anticipation and energy, the crowd—joined by Member of the European Parliament (MEP)  HerveJuvin from France and Mario Silva, Former Canadian Member of Parliament (MP) and Executive Director for the International Forum for Rights and Security in Canada—set off towards the Broken Chair, Geneva to communicate a clear message to the UN: Pakistani Christians are being harassed, arrested, abused, beaten, tortured and killed all for the so-called “crime” of their spiritual beliefs. Pakistani penal code provides for the injustice of religious persecution through its discriminatory blasphemy and religious defamation laws.

Though the past few decades have seen repeated appeals from NGOs and human rights defenders, the international community has not acted with neither the swiftness nor the efficacy needed to actually bring relief to Pakistani Christians. Unfortunately, the Christian community in Pakistan is not the only minority group who has historically suffered under the heat of Pakistan’s fundamentalism-obsessed regime. Sikhs and Hindus have been dealt a similar blow, alongside other minorities across Pakistan.

Christian March Past

Chanting varieties of “Stop Pakistan!” the mass of marchers made their way up to Broken Chair monument where they later held a stage event with a host of speakers. Making up 1.6% of Pakistan’s nearly 207-million people, the Christian community continues to suffer a host of maladies that Pakistan and the international community refuse to address: forced disappearances, arbitrary detentions, forcible conversions, and heightened abuse, hostility, and aggression from Pakistani security forces as well as civilians in their own communities.

Pakistani Christian girls are abducted, forced to convert to Islam, and then married off to Muslim men. Trading football pitches for filthy jail cells, Pakistani Christian boys are arrested, accused of blasphemy, and thrown in detention for indeterminate periods of time where they are beaten and starved. No one is safe from Pakistan’s blasphemy laws. Worse still is the fact that blasphemy allegations come are a literal death sentence; the crime is capitally punished. Legal assistance is futile under a regime that has systematically and strategically hampered any form of appeal or justice for those people who do not conform to the majority rule.

Sectarianism is a cancer. Right now, that cancer is eating away at the very sanctity of life for minority communities across Pakistan, simply for their political, social, and moral convictions. With their march in Geneva this morning, the community of Pakistani Christians across Europe seeks to motivate the UN and all other appropriate international and national bodies to utilise the diplomatic and political channels available to them in order to actually do what is in their mandate: secure and protect human rights for all people, in all places.

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