European Court of Human Rights: ‘Christian Converts Are Persecuted in Pakistan’

May 4, 2022

Conversion to Christianity is often the occasion for persecution of Christians, both of the converts and of those who brought the converts the word of the Gospel. Authorities in many countries consider conversion to be an act of disloyalty to the state. It is also frequently seen as an unpardonable rejection of the dominant culture and values.

Pakistan is home to over two million Christians. A small number of these Christians are Orthodox. Orthodox Christians in Pakistan are under the spiritual jurisdiction of the Orthodox Metropolitanate of Singapore and South Asia, which comprises all the Orthodox Communities, Parishes, Foundations and Philanthropic Projects in Singapore, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Afghanistan, Brunei, Timor, Maldives, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Sri Lanka, as well as Pakistan.

For previous coverage of the persecution of Christians in Pakistan, see here.

“European Court of Human Rights: ‘Christians [sic] Converts Are Persecuted in Pakistan,’” by Massimo Introvigne, Bitter Winter, April 29, 2022:

On April 26, 2022, in the case “M.A.M. v. Switzerland,” the European Court of Human Rights has established the principle that those who convert from Islam to Christianity are at serious risk of persecution in Pakistan and are in principle entitled to asylum.

The decision is significant because it concerns a case of so-called conversion “sur place,” i.e., that occurred after asylum seekers left their country of origin. M.A.M. left Pakistan because he felt at risk due to a vendetta involving his family and a family of neighbors, which the Swiss authorities and the European Court agree would not justify asylum.

However, after he arrived in Switzerland, M.A.M., a Muslim, converted to Christianity and joined the Salvation Army. The Swiss authorities and courts agreed that his conversion was sincere and that he is an active member of the Salvation Army in Switzerland.

M.A.M. then based his asylum request on the fact that converts from Islam to Christianity may be easily accused of blasphemy and arrested for a crime that is punished by the death penalty under Pakistani law. Even when they are not arrested and sentenced, converts may be killed by their relatives, who then are declared not guilty by courts or receive very mild sentences. In the case of M.A.M., the fact that his brother was an imam made the risk even higher.

The Swiss authorities and judges, up to a decision of the Federal Administrative Court of June 2, 2020, rejected the asylum request. They examined several COI (Country of Origin Information) documents about Pakistan, and concluded that Christianity is not banned in the country and there is no general persecution of Christians there. As for blasphemy, they interpreted Pakistani law in the sense that the crime is committed only by those who publicly insult or disparage Islam, which was not the case of M.A.M.

M.A.M. was supported by ADF (Alliance Defending Freedom), the European Centre for Law and Justice (ECLJ), and Ordo Iuris – Institute for Legal Culture in his recourse to the European Court of Human Rights. The latter examined COI and documents dealing with blasphemy laws and the situation of converts from Islam to Christianity in Pakistan, including the European Parliament resolution of 29 April 2021 on blasphemy laws in Pakistan and the U.K. “Country Policy and Information Note—Pakistan: Christians and Christian Converts” of February 2021. These documents were published after the Swiss Federal Administrative Court 2020 decision, but describe a situation that existed well before.

The European Court concluded that the Swiss authorities and courts had focused their attention on the situation of Christians in Pakistan in general, but failed to examine the specific situation of Christian converts from Islam. They are indeed at risk of being either executed on the basis of the blasphemy laws, as charges of offending Islam are often trumped-up, or killed by their relatives….