Market scene like this will change under Sharia law in parts of Pakistan. (Open Doors Photo)
Pakistan (MNN) ― Taliban-enforced sharia law went into effect this week in part of Pakistan's Northwest Frontier Province, and many believe this is the first step toward seizing control of the country.
President of Open Doors USA Carl Moeller agrees. "Look at the prize that's on the table with Pakistan. You have a country with nuclear weapons, the fifth or sixth largest army in the world, sea port access, and it's geo-politically strategic enough that the United States has invested billions of dollars there over the course of 50 years," he says.
Pakistan ceding this part of the country to the Taliban means it's only a matter of time. Moeller says, "I think we've got about 12 to 18 months before Pakistan falls into utter chaos. There's no unifying force against these extremists. So, most people are really nervous."
While sharia law has just been implemented, already the Taliban is exercising harsh punishment. According to published reports, an adult couple who attempted to elope was executed because these families didn't approve of the marriage. In another case, a 17-year-old girl was beaten severely for talking to a man who wasn't her husband.
According to Moeller that punishment will affect the minority Christians. "The Taliban have no conscience when it comes to taking out their perceived offenses against Islam, against Christians will extreme violence -- murder and public humiliation and beatings."
This is a concern because many of the people doing humanitarian work in Pakistan are Christians. "People don't realize there may be six or eight million Christians in Pakistan," says Moeller. "A number of these people are doctors, nurses, and other workers that are in these areas and are experiencing great repression. Some have been kidnapped and have disappeared."
Sharia law has already had a negative impact on the church, says Moeller. "The Muslim-background believer church is in deep hiding right now because of the increased violence against visible Christians."
Open Doors is providing help for these believers. "Those who have turned to Christ from Islam, in many cases, have to relocate. They have to get new identities because their families will carry out the dictates of sharia law against them: anyone who leaves Islam is an apostate and worthy of death."
Despite the oppression, Moeller says church leaders are still committed to preaching the Gospel. He spoke at a recent pastor's conference and came away moved. "They were rejoicing in the prospect of taking the Gospel to people who are afraid and hurting. In general, when people are fearful and there's a great foreboding, the message of the Gospel resonates more deeply in people's hearts and souls."
In the meantime, Moeller is asking people to pray. He's hoping more than 100,000 people will commit to pray for Pakistan and other countries where Christians face persecution daily.