Reports from Pakistan that Christians and other minorities are being denied food aid distributed in response to the coronavirus emergency have been strongly condemned by the director of a Catholic human rights organisation.
Christians in Karachi have gone on record as saying that NGOs operating in the port city providing food to the homeless, were refusing to give food vouchers to members of minority faith groups, reporting that only Muslims were given them.
Father Emmanuel 'Mani' Yousaf, director of the National Commission for Justice and Peace, said that Christians and other minorities - especially labourers on daily wages - were just as badly affected by the coronavirus lockdown as the Muslim majority population.
Father Yousaf, whose Catholic organisation provides legal and paralegal support to Christians and others threatened within injustice, said: "Everybody is affected by the virus, irrespective of religious differences.
"Reports of NGOs discriminating on religious grounds are very sad to hear. It shows a very narrow mind set at work. Everybody affected should be helped - everybody."
Father Yousaf said discrimination in the provision of food aid was a recurring problem in Pakistan.
Farooq Masih, a Christian man from Karachi's Korongi district, was reported in AsiaNews Catholic media agency as stating that members of the Saylani Welfare International Trust, a charity in the port city, had been handing out food vouchers in his area but when they got to Christian homes they moved on.
Meantime, a video has come to light purporting to show members of an NGO in Karachi distributing food but again ignoring the needs of Christians and other minorities.
Adnan, a Muslim in Karachi, was quoted by AsiaNews stating: "Why did [the NGO] discriminate against Christians? Are they not citizens of Pakistan? We are all suffering from COVID-19."
According to latest reports, there are nearly 2,300 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Pakistan, with 31 deaths.
Punjab is the province with the highest number of cases - more than 800.