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Christians denied coronavirus aid in Pakistan

by Heather Preston

Christians in Pakistan are being refused covid-19 aid despite being among those worst affected in the country by the pandemic.

NGOs and Muslim leaders there have been accused of refusing to give emergency support to Christians and other religious minorities.

According to reports from the National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP), religious organisations and mosques have instructed Christians not to come forward for food and other emergency handouts. 

NCJP Executive Director Cecil Shane Chaudhry has reported that Christians in a village near Lahore had been denied food aid, while some 100 Christian families were excluded from food distribution in Sandha Kalan village, in the Punjab's Kasur district. According to Chaudhry emergency aid staff have also refused to give help to non-Muslims because the donations had come as Zakat charitable offerings, in accordance with Islamic Shari'a law.  

"COVID-19 knows no boundaries - everyone is at risk, irrespective of their religion so how can it be fair to deny food and other emergency help to Christians and other minorities, especially when they are among those suffering the most at this time?" He told Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).

Many Christians and religious minorities in the nation have low income jobs that have become significantly more unstable since lockdown measures were introduced at the start of April.

Chaudhry has raised concerns over a possible spike in covid-19 deaths among these groups in particular. Speaking to ACN he explained that many work in the domestic and sanitation industries and due to the nature of their jobs they are at higher risk of contracting the disease.

He has called on the Pakistan government to provide targeted aid for the most vulnerable as well as masks, gloves and other personal protective equipment to those working in high risk jobs to help prevent infection.
Pakistan has 34,336 confirmed cases of coronavirus, according to latest reports, with 737 deaths, although Chaudhry suspects the real number is higher as many cases have gone unreported.  

Aid to the Church in Need has a €5m (£4.38m) COVID-19 emergency aid programme in place to help provide support.

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