In Pakistan, social distancing measures don’t help many Christians, who labor every day for their daily food needs. Without work, these people need food distribution to survive.
Many have been denied access to this food. The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) released a statement condemning the rejection of Christians and Hindus for food aid in Pakistan.
Jonathon, a Christian worker focused in Pakistan, says, “It doesn’t appear that these are the official policies of particular organizations. These are overly zealous workers that are telling people, ‘Oh, you need to recite the Muslim creed.’ Or, ‘You should become a Muslim . . . we’re not going to give you food unless you become a Muslim.’ [Those things] have happened.”
Jonathon says this kind of discrimination against religious minorities is common in Pakistan. But the restriction of the food to only Muslims probably has a religious reason. One of the five Pillars of Islam, Zakat, means all Muslims must give a small percentage of all their assets to the poor.
He explains how this translates to Christians and Hindus getting left out. “Some Muslims have felt, ‘I’m doing this out of my responsibility as a Muslim. This is really intended for my fellow Muslims. For me to get the religious merit that is associated with giving to the poor, those funds should go to Muslims since it was given by a Muslim with that intent.”
The Church’s response
Jonathon says the Church in Pakistan has grown accustomed to receiving large waves of funding from Christians in other countries when some kind of disaster happens.
But right now, that isn’t happening, since the disaster is touching almost every country in the world. He says, “The Pakistani Church is digging really deep into its own resources, and really stepping up to the plate, identifying individual families within each church. And people within the church are giving just hugely, generously, an entire month’s salary or two months’ salary, to help feed their brothers and sisters in Christ.”
Instead of competing for resources, the Christians are banding together to make sure everyone has enough.
The Church in Pakistan, Jonathan says, consists of about 3 million people. “Traditionally, they have been at the bottom rungs of society. They’ve been sanitation workers, and they came out of the lowest castes of Hinduism.”
And now these Christians are gaining the confidence to share the news of the risen Christ with Muslims. Jonathan says that foreign Christians workers are dwindling in Pakistan, but the local Church is roaring to life.
Christians in the West can support what the Church in Pakistan is doing by donating here.
St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Pakistan. (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)