A mob of more than 30 armed men attacked a Christian neighbourhood in Sukkor, in Sindh, south-east Pakistan, on New Year’s Eve. Ten Christians were injured in the assault, during which the attackers demanded Christians vacate houses within a mission compound on church property.
According to residents, the land on which the compound and houses are built has been targeted for appropriation by local Muslims, despite the fact it is owned by the Hyderabad Diocese of the Church of Pakistan. The Christian minority in Pakistan are at a severe disadvantage in such manufactured “land disputes”, which have previously been used as a pretext for violent attacks on Christian communities and individual believers.
Police initially refused to register a formal report following the attack, but Christians gathered to demonstrate outside a local police station to demand the authorities take action against the perpetrators, some of whom were wearing police uniforms.
The Sindh State Government has historically been more receptive to the rights of minorities, as Sindh contains the largest non-Muslim population of any state in Pakistan; according to official figures, Sindh is 91% Muslim, 6.5% Hindu and 0.9% Christian, although the real number of Christians is likely to be higher. In November 2016, the Sindh regional parliament passed a law criminalising forced conversion and the facilitating of forced marriage, which could provide some protection to vulnerable Christian girls and young women living in Sindh.