Breaking off sporting links with Pakistan would signal our displeasure at the way it treats minorities

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Pakistan has had something robust to say about the murderous attack on All Saints church in Peshawar, as you might expect. It is also reassuring to know that the Christians of Pakistan are not taking this passively, but have vigorously protested against their government’s failure to protect them.

We read: “Enraged Christians took to the streets in cities across the country to protest the attack, with many condemning both the government and the militants. One Lahore demonstration demanded the resignation of the provincial official responsible for providing security to its religious minorities.”

Pakistani Christians are right to be enraged, for as the Catholic Herald report makes clear, the perpetrators of this crime regard every single non-Muslim in the land as a legitimate target. This must be added to the fact that Pakistani Christians are already targeted by unjust and discriminatory laws upheld by their own government. Let us remember the case of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman, who has been imprisoned for two years and is currently under sentence of death for an alleged “blasphemy”. That Asia Bibi can be judicially murdered by the Pakistani state, and that the Taliban-related group that sees murdering Mass-goers in Peshawar as a sacred duty – these two facts are not unrelated.

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I am old enough to remember the permanent demonstration outside South Africa House in Trafalgar Square, and the endless campaign for sanctions against the country, as well as the boycott of all South African goods. As it turns out, these protests and campaigns produced little change, or so we are now told; what really made a difference was the sporting boycott. As it happens the Pakistanis are as cricket mad as the South Africans ever were. Why can’t we break off sporting links with Pakistan as a sign of our displeasure at the way it treats its Christians? Surely this anti-Christian bias is as bad as apartheid? And while we are at it, can we not boycott Pakistani goods, not visit the country, and could not the government of Britain add some diplomatic sanctions?

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