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Pakistan Christians fleeing to Southeast Asia

LAHORE, Pakistan, July 13 (News Lens Pakistan) -- As violence worsens for Pakistan's Christians, more than 100,000 of them have fled to U.N. refugee camps in Thailand, Sri Lanka, Malaysia and the Philippines in the past several years, Lahore Bishop Alexander John Malik told News Lens Pakistan.

Pakistani Christians face discrimination and persecution by the state and fellow citizens. They are routinely accused of blasphemy and attacked or jailed. Their homes and churches are burned down. Christian girls are kidnapped and compelled to convert to Islam, then forcibly married.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has said that the number of Pakistani asylum seekers arriving in Sri Lanka had jumped to over 1,400, up from 102 in 2012. Another 8,000 Pakistani refugees and asylum seekers -- those without official refugee status -- were in Thailand. These groups are mostly made up of Christians and Ahmadiyya Muslims, a minority sect within Islam.

Christians are the third-largest faith community in Pakistan, after Muslims and Hindus, and the second-largest in Punjab province after Muslims, according to Lahore-based Kashif Nawab, former U.N. observer in Pakistan for minorities.