What does persecution look like in Pakistan?
Christians in Pakistan are considered second-class citizens and face discrimination in every aspect of life. Jobs that are seen as low, dirty and degrading are reserved for Christians by the authorities, who continue to push them to the margins of society. They lack proper representation in politics and although there were no major attacks against churches last year, there are almost constant attacks against individuals. Many do not feel safe to worship freely.
Pakistan's notorious blasphemy laws target religious minorities (including Muslim minorities), but affect the Christian minority in particular – roughly a quarter of all blasphemy accusations target Christians, who only make up 1.8% of the population. The number of blasphemy cases is increasing, as is the number of Christian (and other minority religion) girls being abducted, abused and forcibly converted to Islam.
In addition to social hostility, Christians also experience apathy from the authorities who should protect them. The police force is more interested in appeasing local strongmen than implementing the law and protecting minorities. Courts have a slightly better track record in enforcing the law fairly, but lengthy delays are commonplace. Christians often languish in prison for years before judgment is handed down, and it is then too late to bring about change.
The Christian community feels increasingly trapped between the Islamic extremist groups that operate in the region, and a government that appeases these groups. They feel vulnerable without a trusted authority to protect their rights.
Who is most vulnerable to persecution?
Christians who convert from Islam are the most vulnerable to persecution, both from Islamic extremist groups (who see them as apostates) and from families, friends and neighbors who see conversion as a shameful act of betrayal to family and community.
The highest numbers of Christians live in Punjab Province, which consequently sees higher incidents of discrimination and intolerance. The province of Sindh is also notorious for being a hotspot for bonded labor, which affects many Christians as well.
“When our hands are empty of bread, we have found it is good to raise them to heaven. God provides. Somehow, he is getting us and our children through this time.”Ruqia, school teacher affected by the 2022 floods.
What has changed this year?
Pakistan continues to be one of the countries where it is most difficult to live as a Christian. There are growing numbers of Christian (and other minority religion) girls being abducted, abused and forcibly converted to Islam. A draft bill on forced conversion was rejected by parliament, after religious scholars had deemed it as 'anti-Islamic' and politicians had denied the need for it. The number of cases of blasphemy, which is punishable by death, continues to rise.
What does Open Doors do to help Christians in Pakistan?
Open Doors is active in the Persian Gulf countries through a network of partner churches, but for security reasons, we cannot say what we do where.
How can you pray for Pakistan?
- Please pray that Pakistan's blasphemy laws will be changed so that Christians will be safe from false accusations
- Pray for protection for women who suffer domestic violence and girls who are forced into marriage. Ask God to work in the hearts of their husbands to treat them with kindness and respect
- Pray for wisdom and protection for those reaching out to help communities displaced by last year's floods.
Heavenly Father, look with mercy on Your children who suffer oppression and injustice in Pakistan and draw them into closer relationship with You. Protect our brothers and sisters who live under the daily threat of violence or hostility. Encourage women who despair in unloving or abusive relationships. Give them Your peace, and a loving community outside the home. Comfort believers who have been falsely imprisoned and intervene to secure their freedom. Help Your church in Pakistan to be salt and light to their communities. Amen.