An international Christian rights group has expressed alarm over the reported refusal of Pakistan to accept new refugees fleeing Afghanistan.
“Pakistan’s decision to close its border to Afghan refugees complicates an already complicated and dangerous situation,” said William Stark, regional head of International Christian Concern (ICC).
ICC is a Washington-based ecumenical, non-governmental, non-partisan Christian organization whose focus is the human rights of Christians and religious minorities.
Stark said that with less places to escape persecution at the hands of the Taliban, “the desperation felt by those stuck in Afghanistan will only increase” with the refusal of Pakistan.
“The international community must do more to help these at-risk communities in Afghanistan, including Christians,” he said.
He suggested that for Afghan Christians, “a special status must be created that would allow them to leave Afghanistan and resettle in a safe country.”
“With the Taliban now in control, Christians stuck in Afghanistan are likely living in the most dangerous country in the world for Christians,” said Stark.
Pakistan’s foreign minister, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, has earlier announced that his country does not have the capacity to absorb more refugees.
“So our position is that they [Afghans] stay in Afghanistan …. I see no reason why they can’t stay in Afghanistan,” Qureshi said in an interview with The Independent.
According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Pakistan currently hosts more than 1.4 million registered Afghan refugees.
An additional two million are estimated to also be living in Pakistan without official documentation.
Since the Taliban took control of Afghanistan last month, the UNHCR estimates that more than 9,200 Afghan refugees have fled to Pakistan.
The Christian population of Afghanistan is estimated to be up to 12,000 individuals, making it one of the country’s largest religious minority groups.
Afghan Christians are almost all converts from Islam, making them a prime target for persecution under the Taliban’s interpretation of the Sharia law.
For Afghan Christians, the Taliban consider them apostates due to their conversions to Christianity. Leaving Islam is considered extremely shameful and converts face dire consequences if their conversions are discovered.