On July 20, 2020, the Sindhi American Political Action Committee (SAPAC) hosted an online panel discussion to raise awareness on the issue of forced conversions and religious persecution in Sindh, Pakistan.
The event began with Fatima Gul, the executive director of SAPAC, giving a brief introduction on the issues of forced conversions of young Sindhi Hindu and Christian girls. Gul then introduced the guest speakers in attendance at the event: David L. Anderson, Kavita Tekchandani, Sanjesh Dhanja, Hindu Singh Sodha, and an appearance later by Congressman Jamie Raskin (MD-08). SAPAC team members Michael Kayal, Jack Miniutti, Amber Georges and Karie Pinnix were also in attendance.
Rep. Raskin is the Vice Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee. He serves on the House Oversight & Government Reform Committee and the Committee on House Administration. The congressman is also a member of the Congressional Sindh Caucus. Rep. Raskin’s expertise and dedication to civil liberties and religious freedom have made him a leading advocate for religious minorities in Sindh and other minorities across the world. The congressman sponsored and introduced a bipartisan resolution calling for the repeal of all blasphemy, heresy and apostasy laws and the immediate release of religious prisoners across the globe. The resolution passed this March.
In the webinar, Rep. Raskin commented:
“It’s the intersection of a lot of terrible trends on earth right now between the authoritarian government and the dictators and the despots and the strongmen — are disappearing people! It’s terrible and it also reflects this trend of violence against women and girls and rising misogyny, which of course goes with the authoritarian, autocratic governments. So, we have to do whatever we can to bring attention to it!”
David Anderson is a former conservative member of the House of Commons of Canada, representing Cypress Hills—Grasslands from 2000 until 2019. Anderson also served as Chair of the Steering Group for the IPPFoRB – the International Panel of Parliamentarians for Freedom of Religion or Belief – a worldwide network of legislators focused on upholding the basic principles of religious freedom.
Discussing the blasphemy law in Pakistan, Anderson stated:
“The rule of law is unequally applied to the principles of blasphemy….the case of Notan Lal…is a good example of how blasphemy charges are used against someone…the issue has not been resolved… [In Pakistan]. Accusations can be made by anyone, perpetrators can be accused…and charges are often applied regardless of evidence.”
The most important points discussed in this panel was that the Pakistani government needs to be held accountable for these actions and that legislators from around the world need to come together to stop religious persecution of minorities in Sindh. Both Anderson and Rep. Raskin detailed the importance of bringing this issue to the attention of legislators and for the Sindhi community around the world to reach out to their local representatives about this important issue.
SAPAC team member Jack Miniutti discussed that the Pakistani government is trying to make all minorities into “good muslims” by converting them to Islam so that Pakistan is more homogenous. Aid needs to be invested into rural Sindh to try and alleviate those stuck in the feudal labor system who are primarily Sindhi religious minorities.
SAPAC team member Karie Pinnix added how the religious persecutions in Pakistan started to form with the reign of President Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq. He is responsible for the earliest repression of religious minorities in Sindh and we can see his work continued today by the Pakistani government.
SAPAC continues to work tirelessly on behalf of the Sindhi community. The organization would like to thank all of the panelists involved, especially David Anderson and Congressman Jamie Raskin, for taking time out of their busy schedules to discuss these issues further.
See the full discussion in the video below and on SAPAC’s YouTube page: