How many Christians are there in Pakistan?
Only 1.9 per cent of people in Pakistan are Christians – just over 4 million out of a population of 212 million.
What does persecution look like in Pakistan?
In Pakistan, Christians are considered second-class citizens and are discriminated against in every aspect of life. Church leaders can be arrested if they don't abide by the authorities' wishes. These arrests act as warnings to the Christian minority and intimidates them further. The COVID-19 crisis led to more discrimination against Christians, with aid being provided to Christian day laborers only if they converted to Islam. Pakistan's infamous blasphemy laws continue to be leveraged to accuse non-Muslims (or minority Muslim sects) of insulting the Prophet Mohammed or the Quran—even a false accusation can lead to mob violence. Additionally, a silent epidemic of kidnappings, forced marriages and forced conversion of Christian girls and women continue in Pakistan.
Who is most vulnerable to persecution?
Since most Christians live in Punjab Province, many incidents of persecution, discrimination and intolerance occur there. However, next to Punjab, the province of Sindh is also notorious for being a hotspot for bonded labor, affecting many Christians as well. All Christians in Pakistan are potential victims of abuse and discrimination, but anyone caught converting from Islam bears the brunt of persecution in Pakistan. Established churches also come under pressure and surveillance from the government.
Arzoo is a Pakistani girl who was kidnapped at age 13 and forced to convert to Islam and marry her abductor
“Arzoo is a third-generation Pakistani Christian girl,” says a source who wishes to remain anonymous. “She is one of many who go through the trauma of abduction and forced conversion annually. Christians in Pakistan are asking for prayer for the legal procedures and trial that lie ahead, for justice to be upheld and lives and families to be safeguarded.”Arzoo
What has changed compared to last year?
Persecution has remained steady in Pakistan this year. Violence against Christians for their faith continues to happen at extreme levels, but discrimination and pressure are daily realities for Christians throughout the country. The COVID-19 pandemic led to a campaign where hard-line Islamists tied food aid to conversions, and Christian hospital workers were sent to COVID-19 wards with no protective gear, because they are viewed as expendable. Christians can be taunted for wearing a cross necklace, accusations of blasphemy can happen because of Facebook posts (and lead to violent mob reprisals). Anyone who converts from Islam is viewed as an apostate.
What does Open Doors do to help Christians in Pakistan?
Open Doors is active in the Persian Gulf countries through the ALIVE network of partner churches, but for security reasons, we cannot give further details.
How can you pray for Pakistan?
- Pray for the entire Christian community of Pakistan, that they would be encouraged and kept from exhaustion and despair.
- Pray for the government and religious leaders of Pakistan. Ask God to soften their hearts, that they would extend an open hand to Pakistani Christians and allow different religions to peacefully live out their faith in Pakistan.
- Pray for the women and girls who are kidnapped, forced to convert to Islam and marry Muslim men. Pray for healing from the deep trauma they endure and ask God to deliver His people from the deep wounds of the enemy.
O God, Your unfailing providence sustains our lives, even when they are difficult and painful. Today, we ask You to be with our sisters and brothers in Pakistan who risk everything to follow You. Be their anchor and their shield. Sustain their lives and give them a deep and abiding sense of Your peace and Your love. Bring them to Your heavenly Kingdom and remind them they aren't alone. In Jesus' name, Amen.