Pakistan (MNN) — The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom is taking notice of attacks on places of worship. In countries like Pakistan, worship sites of minority religions are frequently targeted with violence.
Attacks on Churches
FMI’s Executive International Director Bruce Allen often hears reports from the field of attacks on Pakistani churches.
“We are seeing an increase in illegal land seizures or attempts at illegal land seizures where radical Muslims in a community will try and seize the Church property from the Christians, even sometimes while the Christians are in the Church worshipping,” Allen says.
When perpetrators successfully carry out their attacks, Christians rarely receive justice due to deep corruption in the police force and the rest of the judicial system.
In early 2019, FMI helped fortify partner churches in Pakistan with security updates. This has protected FMI partner churches when scheduled power outages afford attackers an opportunity to cause harm.
Allen says FMI equipped churches with CVT cameras with night vision capabilities and alternative power sources. This has not only protected churches during power outages but provided them with evidence to prove attacks and discover who is attacking the church. However, FMI does not work with every church or every church planter in Pakistan, meaning neighboring churches are still vulnerable.
“In one of the situations, the assailants were known to the police. They already had a rap sheet, we’ll say. They’ve been trouble makers, not just against Christians, but just in general. Well, when the police arrested and detained those assailants. [But] they just slapped them on the wrist and said ‘this church that you’re trying to attack, they obviously have security measures that go beyond what you expected, so don’t both that church again’,” Allen says.
“So, that’s a nice thing to say, but then what the police also said was ‘we know of a church a couple of kilometers away that doesn’t have those security measures. Go attack that one.”
If intolerance against religious minorities such as Christians continues in society and does not improve, attacks will likely intensify.
“When a culture tolerates or encourages attacks against physical spaces, such as churches or learning centers or even sites like a cemetery that should be sacred, it’s easy for that culture then to take the next step and tolerate attacks against the worshippers themselves,” Allen says.
These attacks are not limited to just Pakistan. FMI’s partners are seeing similar attacks in Bangladesh and Indonesia. In these cases, attacks are less overt. Attacks can look like radicals pressuring Muslim landlords to terminate their lease with Christian tenants or local authorities threatening to cut off water supply for churches or church members unless they stop their Christian activity.
How to Pray
Pray for the protection and encouragement of churches in Pakistan. Pray for pastors and other church leaders to have wisdom and understanding in regard to these challenging situations. Pray for healthy relationships between Christians and local authorities before attacks occur and for these relationships to help prevent corruption. Pray for these Christians to respond in love, even to those who attack them, for Christ to go forth in these areas.
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Header photo courtesy of FMI.