Christians Brace for sharia law in Swat Valley – Pakistan

ISTANBUL, March 27 (Compass Direct News) – Just over a month since Pakistan’s Swat Valley turned into a Taliban stronghold where sharia (Islamic law) rules, the fate of the remaining Christians in the area is uncertain. In an effort to end a bloody two-year battle, the Islamabad administration struck a deal with Taliban forces surrendering all governance of Swat Valley in the North West Frontier Province. Sources told Compass that in the violence that has killed and displaced hundreds, an estimated 500 Christians remain in the region. In the past year, more than 200 girls schools in Swat were reported to have been burned down or bombed by Islamic extremists. Remaining girls schools were closed down in January but have been re-opened since the peace agreement in mid-February. An associate pastor of the sole Church of Pakistan congregation in Swat told Yousaf Benjamin of the National Commission for Justice and Peace that with the bombing of girls schools at the end of last year, all Christian families migrated to nearby districts. After the peace deal and with guarded hope for normalcy and continued education for their children, most Christian families have returned but are reluctant to attend church. The associate pastor, who requested anonymity, said that “people don’t come to the church as they used to come before.” He said that Christians have yet to believe the Taliban will keep promises of peace.

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