BBC reporter Chris Rogers and chairman of the British Pakistani Christian Association (BPCA)visited in November last year. The two of them risked imprisonment in the infamously brutal jails of Thailand, with the goal of highlighting the re-persecution thousands of Pakistani Christian asylum seekers face in Bangkok.
WATCH THE DOCUMENTARY….https://vimeo.com/user18375217/review/156847557/edd7ed8b33
The feature will reveal the alarming conditions within the Immigration Detention Centre in Thailand, where hundreds of Pakistani Christians have been caged like animals, living in conditions so severe that they are detrimental to health and, in several cases have led to completely unnecessary deaths due to withheld medicine. The report also brings home the truth of the terrible and often under-reported phenomenon of persecution of Christians in Pakistan.
In addition, tomorrow at some point between 3.15 and 3.35 pm Wilson Chowdhry will interviewed live at the BBC World studios in London for the ‘Our World’ programme, which is shown in is shown in Thailand and Pakistan. Viewers will have a real chance of understanding the depth of pain that these destitute asylum seekers suffer, simply through fear of returning to the nation of their birth, where they are treated as pariahs and routinely preyed upon.
Chairman of the BPCA, Wilson Chowdhry, said:
“Making this documentary placed Chris and I in some very dangerous situations. At one location local armed security teams near the UNHCR offices in Bangkok drew close to our vehicle and registered the licence plate of our vehicle when we pulled away – it was a heart-stopping moment. We placed our lives at risk simply to uncover the truth and share it with a world that for the most part is completely unaware of the plight faced by thousands of Pakistani Christians. I pray that the documentary will reach the heart of decision makers across the globe and that in doing so, it results in a concerted effort to bring some respite to my long suffering people.”
On Wednesday 24 February, the All Party Parliamentary Group for International Freedom of Religion or Belief launched its inquiry report on Freedom of Religion or Belief in Pakistan & UK Government Policy. The report challenges the Home Office’s Country Information and Guidance on Pakistani Christians and Christian converts while also finding that Ahmadis, Christians and Hindus in Pakistan face a real risk of persecution, the likelihood of which depends on their encounters with and actions amongst people of other faiths or beliefs.
The APPG inquiry’s main findings and recommendations include an urgent requirement for a new country guidance case regarding Pakistani Christians to provide sufficient and accurate guidance for Pakistani Christian asylum cases. At the very least, the APPG urges the Home Office to limit the use of the current AK and SK country guidance case in its Country Information and Guidance (CIG) report on Pakistani Christians and Christian converts to be used only for cases involving Evangelical Christians and blasphemy charges from non-State actors. In the report, the APPG urges the Home Office to acknowledge the strong evidence highlighting Pakistani authorities’ failure to protect minority religious communities from rights violations and amend its CIGs accordingly. The inquiry also highlights concerns about the possibility of internal relocation of Pakistani religious minorities, which the APPG urges the UK Home Office to recognise as unsafe and unviable.
Home Office staff involved in asylum cases, including interviewers, interpreters, case workers and presenting officers, are also recommended by the APPG to be sufficiently sensitised and trained in the different religious doctrines and terminologies of religious denominations in Pakistan, as well as the cultural contexts which have enabled and supported the persecution of members of Pakistan’s minority religious communities.
Furthermore, the APPG urges the UK Department for International Development to ensure that overseas development assistance is only provided to organisations and government departments in Pakistan that can demonstrate their understanding of and commitment to upholding Pakistan’s international human rights obligations. This appeal is made in conjunction with the recommendation that the Government of Pakistan be supported in maintaining its international obligations that include protecting freedom of religion or belief, repealing punishments that are cruel, inhumane and degrading or amount to torture and preventing hatred and incitement to violence that is broadcast on Pakistani media channels, including in the UK.
The APPG inquiry into the treatment of religious minorities in Pakistan and as asylum seekers stems from Lord Alton’s visit to UNHCR’s Bangkok detention camp. During the visit, it was discovered that the UK Home Office’s CIG Report on Pakistani Christians and Christian converts, which states that such individuals are not at “a real risk of persecution”, was being used to justify unduly prolonging granting asylum to Christians fleeing Pakistan. The APPG for International Freedom of Religion or Belief subsequently launched an inquiry into the treatment of different religious communities in Pakistan and the adequacy of current UK Government policy regarding these communities. The report launched on Wednesday 24th February is the result of the APPG’s three-month long investigations and analysis which draws on evidence from over 20 organisations, lawyers and academics.
Wilson Chowdhry, Chairman of the BPCA was one of many delegates to speak at the hearings, he said:
“This groundbreaking report identifies the complex social climate in Pakistan that has seen the growth and stabilising of hatred towards minorities. Failures by Pakistan’s authorities to control extremism based on religious intolerance, have manifested in widespread discrimination and often persecution, yet countries in the west rarely offer asylum to those that escape the prejudice and oppression. Hopefully this report will be a trigger for more considerate assessment of asylum seekers from the region.”
A copy of the report can be read here:
(Voice of the Persecuted) Faisal was a hardworking employee who had been with the company for years. His attention to detail paid off as he successfully managed projects leading the team in the office. Happy with his work, the boss often praised him with a ‘job well done’. In the evening, he made the journey back to his wife who was preparing dinner in their rented home. It was a decent place to raise their 2 children. Faisal’s education and wages offered his family opportunities many don’t have in Pakistan. They were living comfortably and excited about their son’s high marks on the entrance exam at the private school. Everything seemed to be going in their favor, they never anticipated their lives would soon be turned upside down.
The couple had always been strong in their Christian faith and thanked God for all their blessings. They raised their children to know the Lord, even helping them to memorize Scriptures. They faithfully attended church and helped the pastor with church programs and missions to the poor. Faisal never hid is faith and freely shared the Gospel to all who would listen. One day, a Muslim friend approached him and they spoke about Jesus. Though somewhat heated at the beginning, Faisal was able to explain the saving message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. His friend returned again and again, hungary to know more of this Savior. Soon, he and his family began following Jesus, along with his in-laws. Months later, a secret evening service was set up at the church for their baptism. 9 people were baptized that night.
The family’s conversion later became known to some Muslims in the community. The family eventually was forced to move to a safe location due to constant threats and pressures, even from their own family members. Faisal became a target as they blamed him for brainwashing his friend. One evening, he was approached by men unknown to him. They called him an infidel and other obscenities. They robbed him and began beating him on the street. They threatened him for spreading Christianity and tried to forcibly convert him to Islam. When he refused, they became so enraged, Faisal thought they would beat him to death and he cried out for help. The men ran way when his cries drew the attention of others who called for the men to stop. A local Christian helped him home. Faisal soon began receiving threats and his home was vandalized. His pastor became very concerned and thought he should move his family to another location.
One day, men came to his home looking for him, but he was out. They threatened his wife. They threatened their church if they kept attending. They threatened to kill them if they aided the conversion of Muslims to Christianity. A few nights later, the windows of their home were smashed. The family shifted to the home of a friend and Faisal chose not go to his job for fear of being assaulted or worse. His extended family members were also approached and asked to give up Faisal’s location. They too were threatened.
Advised by his pastor, Faisal took all their savings and fled to another country to seek asylum with the UNHCR. He wanted to live in a place where his children could worship and grow up without fear. Expenses to survive was much higher than they had expected. It wasn’t long before they’re visa’s expired and they were left penniless. Faisal sought out odd jobs to support his family, but did so at great risk of arrest and being sent to the detention center. If arrested, his wife and children would be left to fend for themselves, as they would not have the means to bail him out. Life became hard and they also relied on charity from others. (Name changed for security purposes)
In the case of a woman who had been left on her own, she struggled to find ways to care for her children. It broke her heart as she heard her children wail with pain from hunger. She was forced to beg in the streets to buy them milk. On Sunday’s, she and her children stood near the steps of a church praying the church members would have compassion for them. Some would give her the equivalent of a dollar or two and on rare occasions $20. But the majority would walk past her, while some shamed her or yelled to get out of their way. This shattered any dignity she had left. But every Sunday, she swallowed her pride and found herself back at the church steps, she had no other choice in this foreign land.
Another danger in places like Thailand is sex trafficking. Thailand is known throughout the world for this booming industry. Many asylum seekers fear for their young daughters, that they may be abducted then sold. Knowing how vulnerable they are, many girls are constantly approached by traffickers trying to lure them in. A few weakened by desperation have fallen for their trap. Some will tell you, “I had no other choice.” How sad it is to lose even one sister to this life of abuse, simply because she could find no compassion from others.
The stories above are not uncommon. Many who have left Pakistan due to persecution have traveled to Thailand for asylum. The Thai government brings further hardships as they don’t recognize asylum seekers, nor the UNHRC asylum seeker certificates that should protect them. When their visa’s expire they are considered illegals. If arrested, they’re thrown into the Immigration Detention Centre, along with it’s horrific conditions. The UNHCR office is burdened by thousands of asylum applications, while the office remains understaffed. The 24 month wait for a scheduled interview is often postponed by the office for another year . We’ve found this to be the case for many Pakistani Christians interview dates. Determination status and transfer to welcoming nations has taken as long as 6 years. That’s an unbearable amount of time for anyone to continue suffering without the means to change their conditions.
As illegals, they’re children are not allowed to go to school. They are not allowed a work permit and arrested if found working. They are given little to no aid and must beg or take risks to survive. It’s even harder for women with children, or those who suffer health conditions which prevent them from finding odd jobs. Many can’t afford medical treatment and medications for their illnesses. They’re unable to take their sick children to a doctor. They suffer in silence, or succumb to their disease.
The refugee crisis in the Middle East has taken over media headlines and government meetings, as they try to deal with the woes it is causing. Churches and organizations are now focusing their attention on these refugees. Based on numbers or rules as to how government grants must be used, many Christian refugees/asylum seekers from the Mid East and elsewhere are falling through the cracks. We see this being the case for the large number of Pakistani Christians in Thailand. We recently heard of a case where a Pakistani Christian had applied for sponsorship of his family with a church in a western nation. The process began very promising as they communicated back and forth. Sadly, the church later informed this brother that they were now only approving sponsorship for those coming from Iraq or Syria. He was heartbroken when the high hopes for his family’s freedom and an end to their ongoing pain in Thailand came crashing down in a single communication.
Thailand has stepped up their efforts and regularly raids low cost housing complexes known to house asylum seekers. The Bangkok Post reported in an article titled, ‘Migrant crackdown steps up’ that the Immigration Bureau claimed to only arrest those who have committed crimes. It’s true that some foreigners have entered with criminal intentions, but this is not the scope of the current situation in Bangkok. They are arresting anyone found with expired visa’s, as in the case of Pakistani Christians. The article states, Some of these refugees were found to be breaking Thai laws by working without permits. But their only crime is waiting on the UNHCR process to move them to a country of refuge, and working odd jobs to feed and shelter their families. It is unjust to expect them to starve to death, when the programs designed to help them are failing. What’s criminal is to expect them to return to a nation where they will face severe persecution, death sentences or lose their lives by the hands of extremists. They cannot return and like many other Christians fleeing persecution, they’re running out of safe places to go. How can we turn our backs on them?
Pakistani Christians make up the largest number of those seeking asylum in Bangkok. To be treated as they are and often prevented from bail outs from the IDC is inhumane. Voice of the Persecuted is caring for a family who took in another family’s children, both parents are locked up at the detention centre. Recently, all the adults but one woman in this family was arrested and taken to the IDC. She now must care for 9 kids on her own. Also alone, another woman has been caring for her 6 children. Her husband has been held in the IDC for 5 months. The struggles they face in Thailand is an unfair burden on the many who have already suffered so much. Voice of the Persecuted would like to see the Thai government do more to work with the UNHCR for the protection of valid asylum seekers, including allowing work permits so they can support their families. We would like to see the UNHCR Bangkok work on solutions to better staff their office and process asylum cases with greater efficiency. For cases to be heard at their scheduled times and no longer postponed. We believe the UNHCR should also be responsible for the education of asylum seeker children. They are prevented (as illegals) from going to school in Thailand and until these families can be relocated, they remain uneducated.
This unstable situation that will become a regrettable tragedy if continued to be overlooked. If others cannot manage to help them, the Body of Christ (the Church) must step up and care for the least of our brethren in Thailand. Surely this example was set by the first century church, or have we forgotten?
Many new cases are brought to Voice of the Persecuted. Our mission has been designed to stay along side these families to help them endure. But we are a small mission trying to help in a big crisis. It is heartbreaking to not have the means to care for all those needing aid. Each month, we rely on and ask the Lord to provide as we continue covering those we already care for. To give us the ability to add the many other families on our waiting list. We ask for His heart for these dear ones who suffer for their faith in Christ Jesus. We pray for more to partner with us in the mission. As they have had to beg—today, we beg for them. Brothers and sisters, we ask for your help to distribute aid to the persecuted suffering in Thailand.
For more information to aid a persecuted family in Thailand, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Let us not forget them, nor think as the world, ‘someone else will step up to help’. Let us not regret the loss of even one of these ‘family members’ when there is surely a way to share and provide. But any help you can give is appreciated more than you could ever know.
That Pak-Christians would be safe and find shelter in Thailand without fear of arrest or mistreatment
For their daily food and shelter and for medical needs to be met
That God would intervene and that Thai authorities would recognise Pakistani Christians asylum seekers
For education to be available to the children and the teachers to be safe from arrest
L Kanalos, VOP Founder
Together with your generous help, we can reach the goal to alleviate horrific suffering. In darkness and desperation, let us serve in love, with open arms and giving hands to provide light and hope.
Answer to prayer
We have exciting news to share…
This morning Wilson Chowdhry was notified by Peter Trotter a Senior Protection Officer at UNHCR Thailand that a 300,000 euro grant has been granted to them by the European Commission. The grant will now be used to expedite asylum claims that were submitted before 31st December 2015 during a six month exercise. This is extremely good news and the result of a huge campaign by many humanitarian groups. The BPCA was a significant contributor to this campaign our work included: