Believers keep vigil over Pakistan as fighting rages on

By May 7, 2009

Pakistan (MNN) — Pakistan is
bracing for a titanic wave displacement of people in the Swat Valley.  

Helicopter gunships and artillery
swung into action Wednesday against Taliban in Swat. Officials estimate that as many as 800,000
people are on the run as the government
pounds the Taliban back into line. 

While many of the refugees are
heading for relatives' homes, humanitarian agencies are struggling to accommodate the thousands pouring into refugee

Nettleton with
Voice of the Martyrs notes that the stakes are high for believers. "The Taliban do not want a Christian presence
in the area that they control. They do not really want a Christian presence in
Pakistan, at all."

The 3-month-old truce didn't
work. Rather than lay down their arms, the
Taliban expanded its reach from Swat into Lower Dir and Buner. Their constant forays were an apparent land
grab designed to test the government's  resolve. 

The fighting also disrupted
ministry. When the Taliban came through to enforce sharia law, beheading
officials and burning girls' schools, Christians were hit, too. Nettleton says, "I have heard of direct attacks against
Christians. I think it is only natural that as the Taliban advances, churches
will be targeted. Christian homes will be targeted. And people will be asked to pay
the protection tax to stay in the area." 

Compass Direct backs up that
report. They indicate that on April 21, as
members of a congregation erased pro-Taliban graffiti on their church in Taiser
town, near Karachi, armed men intervened to stop them. Soon 30-40 others
arrived as support and began to fire indiscriminately at the crowd; among those
seriously injured were three Christians, including a child, according to a
report by advocacy group Minorities Concern of Pakistan.

A legal advocacy worker told
Compass that police stood by as a Taliban-assembled mob attacked the
Christians. "The Christians do not have guns, they do not have weapons, but
only a little bit of property and the few things in their houses," said Sohail
Johnson, chief coordinator of Sharing Life Ministry Pakistan.  

A representative of the Muttahida
Quami Movement regional party told Compass that after firing on the crowd,
Taliban fighters went through Christian houses, ransacked them and burned one
down. He said they also burned Bibles and beat women on the street. Reports of two execution-style killings of
Christians could not be verified. 

Christians fear inciting violence
by taking a stand against elements connected with the Taliban.

Pray for their protection and pray for the
boldness of the evangelists and church planters during this time. Pray that Pakistani Christians will remain
unshaken from the work the Lord has given them, trusting Him to bring eternal
results .  Ask God to give healing to
those injured. Pray that those mourning
for the martyred believers will find comfort in Christ.

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