Asia Bibi And Other Pakistani Christians Face Uneasy Christmas Holiday
Pakistan’s Christians are facing an uneasy Christmas holiday this year. Many fear their community will be targeted and attacked by the country’s extremists as they gather for traditional Christmas festivities.
Much of the concern surrounds the fear of backlash following the acquittal of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman formally on death row for allegedly committing blasphemy. On October 31, Bibi was acquitted by Pakistan’s Supreme Court after more than 9 years of controversy.
Following the acquittal, fanatics took to the streets across Pakistan in protest and brought the country to a standstill for three days. Christians fear this public outpouring of rage could spill over into attacks on Pakistan’s Christian community generally.
Asia Bibi will also celebrate Christmas under guard. She remains a prime target in conservative Muslim-majority Pakistan, with extremists calling for her blood and the government refusing to reveal her location out of fear for her safety.
“It’s too dangerous… People want to kill her,” said Yousaf Hadayat, a resident from one of Islamabad’s impoverished Christian ghettos, littered this week by a smattering of Santa hats and Christmas trees.
Extremists in Pakistan also have a history of targeting Christians during important holidays. Last year, two suicide bombers attacked Bethel Memorial Methodist Church in Quetta killing 10 and injuring dozens more in the weeks leading up to Christmas. In 2016, Christians celebrating Easter in Lahore were attacked in a public park by a suicide bomber.
With this in mind, many Christians have altered their holiday plans and have asked the government to provide their community with extra security.