11th May 2012
Re: Invitation to a presentation on the persecution of Christian women in the world today
Chaired by Professor the Lord Alton of Liverpool
House of Commons – Committee Room 12
Tuesday, 15th May 2012 5.30-6.30pm
“Religious freedom is the first of human rights since it expresses the fundamental
reality of the human person.” Pope Benedict XVI – 9th January 2012
At a time of increasing oppression and persecution of Christians across the world, I am writing to invite you to a presentation and discussion of one overlooked dimension of that persecution – the impact on Christian women. If, as Christians, women are second-class citizens, as Christian women they are barely citizens at all.
The event, on Tuesday 15th May, includes:
- First-hand accounts of women in Egypt and Pakistan with direct experience of persecution
- Archbishop Joseph Coutts assessing the plight of Christian women in his native Pakistan
- Bishop Joannes Zakaria assessing the plight of Christian women in his native Egypt
The event will also see the launch of Christians and the Struggle for Religious Freedom, a new report produced by the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need. The dossier examines the importance of religious freedom and provides incident reports of recent acts of persecution including those targeting women. Copies of the report will be available at the event.
Countless reports by independent bodies have shown that Christians are the most persecuted religious group in the world. We need to establish a new consensus of rejection of such violations, and to make it a greater priority of our foreign policy to seek to prevent them. We would be delighted to count on your participation.
Please let us know you are coming to the event by contacting John Pontifex at Aid to the Church in Need: JohnP@acnuk.org mobile: 07815 591427
I look forward to seeing you. With my very best wishes,
Professor the Lord David Alton of Liverpool
ACN News: Friday, 11th May 2012 – UK
With pictures of Archbishop Joseph Coutts of Karachi, Pakistan, and Bishop Joannes Zakaria of Luxor, Egypt (© Aid to the Church in Need www.acnuk.org)
Suffering of Christian women exposed
John Newton and John Pontifex
REVELATIONS about the scale of hate crimes against Christian women in Pakistan and Egypt are to be the subject of a meeting in parliament next week.
At the briefing in the House of Commons this coming Tuesday (15th May), MPs and Peers will hear how Christian women in countries marked by religious persecution experience kidnapping, violence, rape, and even have basics like water denied them.
Evidence of widespread discrimination against Christian women is highlighted in a number of new reports.
These include the Life on the Margins report by the Pakistani Catholic Church’s National Commission for Justice and Peace, and Catholic charity Aid to the Need (UK)’s new book, Christians and the Struggle for Religious Freedom, which will be launched at the event in parliament.
According to research, women are more likely to experience sexual harassment or rape because of their lower social status – which is due to both their religion and their gender.
One survey of women from minority religions in Pakistan revealed that 30 percent of those with jobs had experienced sexual harassment.
Other reports revealed how abductions of Coptic women in Egypt have increased, with 800 cases of Christians kidnapped and pressured to convert to Islam since 2009.
The Commons meeting will hear from Thomsena Anjum, originally from Pakistan’s Punjab province, who fled to the UK with her family after being shot at following a blasphemy allegation against her son.
Mrs Anjum, whose husband Stephen worked closely with assassinated Pakistan minorities minister Shahbaz Bhatti, will say: “I am a witness to the plight of Christian women in rural areas – but also deeply saddened because of the atrocities they faced on a daily basis due to their religion.
“These hate crimes towards Christian women are increasing and do not seem to end. These crimes are unreported and unpunished.”
Mrs Anjum visited hundreds of Christian families in Punjab province as a district councillor and social worker in Faisalabad between 1998 and 2009.
Chaired by Lord David Alton of Liverpool, the meeting will also hear testimonies from Archbishop Joseph Coutts of Karachi, Pakistan, and Coptic Catholic Bishop Joannes Zakaria of Luxor, Egypt.
At the House of Commons meeting Aid to the Church in Need’s John Pontifex will outline the findings of research by the charity and other organisations.
He will say: “Taken as a whole, this research suggests that Christians in general are often treated at best as second class citizens and Christian women are treated as if they are barely citizens at all.”
ACN has compiled a briefing document specifically looking at the extent of persecution of Christian women in Egypt and Pakistan and highlighting the findings of key research into the subject.
Among those quoted in the briefing is Peter Jacob from Pakistan, one of the authors of the Life on the Margins report, who highlights the rape of Christian women.
He said “the number of attacks against women in Pakistan is four times higher than the cases that [are] reported” and many crimes “based on sex pass in silence”.
At the Commons meeting Mrs Anjum is set to describe other problems faced by Christian women – including how in many places they have been denied water after local Muslims claimed that wells would become ‘unclean’ if Christians touched them.
She said: “Christian women are the poorest of the poor in Pakistan and they are living with shame and suffering discrimination silently.”
- Journalists and other interested parties are welcome to attend the meeting in the House of Commons on Tuesday 15th May. The meeting starts promptly at 5.30pm. Please arrive at St Stephen’s gate in plenty of time to allow for security and bring your invitation letter (sent out with this press release) with you.
- Archbishop Joseph Coutts of Karachi and Archbishop Joannes Zakaria of Luxor, Egypt will also be Aid to the Church in Need’s guests at its Night of Witness event on Thursday 17th May. For information about the event, visit www.acnuk.org/vigil