USCIRF’s Indian American Commissioner Anurima Bhargava calls these actions “simply reprehensible.”
The US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has decried reports of food aid being denied to Hindus and Christians amid the spread of covid-19 in Pakistan.
“These actions are simply reprehensible,” stated Anurima Bhargava, Indian American Commissioner of the independent, bipartisan federal government entity that monitors threats to religious freedom abroad.
“As covid-19 continues to spread, vulnerable communities within Pakistan are fighting hunger and to keep their families safe and healthy,” she said.
“Food aid must not be denied because of one’s faith. We urge the Pakistani government to ensure that food aid from distributing organizations is shared equally with Hindus, Christians, and other religions minorities.”
In Karachi, for example, USCIRF said in a press release, there have been reports that the Saylani Welfare International Trust, a non-government organization established to assist the homeless and seasonal workers, has been refusing food assistance to Hindus and Christians, arguing that the aid is reserved for Muslims alone.
USCIRF Commissioner Johnnie Moore added, “In a recent address by Prime Minister (Imran) Khan to the international community, he highlighted that the challenge facing governments in the developing world is to save people from dying of hunger while also trying to halt the spread of covid-19.
“This is a monumental task laying before many countries. Prime Minister Khan’s government has the opportunity to lead the way but they must not leave religious minorities behind. Otherwise, they may add on top of it all one more crisis, created by religious discrimination and inter-communal strife.”
In its 2019 Annual Report, USCIRF noted that Hindus and Christians in Pakistan “face continued threats to their security and are subject to various forms of harassment and social exclusion.”
Last week, the USCIRF had condemned the stigmatization of religious minorities during Covid around the world.
“COVID-19 does not discriminate based on religion or creed,” USCIRF Chair Tony Perkins said in a press release issued on Friday. “Around the world, individuals of every faith and every denomination have been infected. It is time to stop scapegoating religious minorities — as we have witnessed by the Chinese Communist Party — and instead unite against this pandemic.”
The commission pointed out that, in many countries, “governments have failed to protect vulnerable religious communities.” It said, “In particular, Muslims in India and Cambodia as well as Shi’a Muslims in Pakistan have faced increased stigmatization in recent weeks because some of the earliest patients to test positive for COVID-19 in those countries came from these communities. In addition, local authorities in South Korea have filed lawsuit against the Shincheonji Church, alleging that it undermined public health measures, even though the Ministry of Health and Welfare stated publicly that the church has cooperated with the government’s efforts.”