Six churches in Pakistan have been closed with the local government citing security reasons.

The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) government has sealed at least six non-registered churches in Abbottabad.

The district administration of Abbottabad claims that since the churches are being established in rental houses and are not registered, the pose a security risk.

The District Police Officer (DPO) Syed Ashfaq said that those churches have been sealed which had not been registered with the Auqaf Department.

Some of the churches were established a long time ago and so the timing of this crackdown is confusing.

For example, Emmanuel Pentecostal Church’s Rev Christopher Shakir, whose church also has been closed, said his church was established by his father Akram Shakir in 1985, but for the last seven years he is the pastor and looking after it.

He further said they have been facing problems for some time even at Christmas during which time the district administration interrupted the sermon and ordered them to end the service. This really upset the congregation.

The pastor of another church, Assemblies of God, Rev Saleem Ghori said their church was established some 50 years ago but has now been closed under the so called security risk.

He further said there is a security threat to all churches throughout Pakistan as we saw with the Christmas time attack on the Bethel Methodist Church in Quetta.

He said that if there is really threat to the churches in Abbottabad the Government should provide them with security instead of closing them and playing with people’s religious emotions.

There are roughly 5000 Christians living in Abbottabad district, while there are more in the surrounding area, and many of them are barred from performing their ceremonial and routine religious services.

Christians are living under constant threat as their lives, honour, properties and even worship places are at risk and they are fleeing the country because they see no future for themselves and for their generations.

The US has already added Pakistan’s name on watch list for severe violations of religious freedom but this has been rejected by Pakistan as “politically motivated” and not based on the objective criteria.