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Christians in Pakistan threatened — deadline May 17

By May 16, 2007

Pakistan (MNN) — Persecution against Christians in Pakistan
has been turned up at notch. It's
happening in Charsadda, located in the Northwest Province of the country.


Voice of the Martyrs'
Todd Nettleton says, "There are
about 50 Christian families that are divided between two different
churches. Last week a letter was left
outside the home of one of the Christians, basically saying, 'If you Christians
don't convert back to Islam, then you should leave the city or face the
consequences.'"

Nettleton says Charsadda is a challenging area. "This
particular area apparently has a very strong radical Muslim, Taliban-like
presence. In the past, they have left
threatening notes in the market where videos which were anti-Islam were sold. Later, that market was bombed."

Having seen what happened in the market, Christians are
concerned. But Nettleton says Christians
aren't giving up. "They said, 'Of course we're worried, but we're not
afraid. The Taliban can do anything, but they cannot damage our faith. We will
stand firm in our faith. Christ is with us.'"

Having 50 Christians in a radical
Muslim area is almost unprecedented. "There's is definitely a perceived threat by the growth of the church
amongst the radical Muslims, so they see the church as a threat. This is their
way of striking back against the Christians," says Nettleton.

The threat comes on the heels of Pakistan's National
Assembly overwhelmingly rejecting proposed amendments to the blasphemy laws.
Those amendments were tabled by a minority representative Member of Parliament. On 8 May, the Government led the movement in
the National Assembly to defeat the reforms.

Anyone convicted of blasphemy against the Prophet Mohammad
faces life imprisonment or the death penalty, according to section 295C of the
Pakistan Penal Code.  

The proposed bill would amend the blasphemy penalty to a
five-year prison sentence and a fine. The amendment also proposed applying the
law to other religions as well.

Christians Solidarity Worldwide says the amendments were
vehemently opposed. 

In a statement, APMA said: "Christians and other
religious minorities are being roped into false cases under the blasphemy law.
They are being murdered by zealots. This law is proving to be a sword hanging
on the heads of non-Muslims and secular-minded people.

"The blasphemy law needs to be amended, if not
altogether repealed, because of its great misuse. The law has created an
atmosphere of bigotry and intolerance — a sense of insecurity and
harassment."

Commenting on the threats made to Christians in North-West
Frontier Province, APMA said: "The Christians of Pakistan are already facing
victimization and discrimination. Many innocent Christians are incarcerated and
killed.

"Attacks on churches, Christian schools, and other
institutions have been experienced by the Christians of Pakistan in the past
few years, and now the rise of vigilante groups and threats have aggravated the
situation."

Christian Solidarity Worldwide's National Director Stuart
Windsor says, "We are deeply concerned about the rise of extremism in
Pakistan and the threats made to Christians in North-West Frontier Province. We
urge the Pakistani authorities to do everything possible to create an
atmosphere of religious tolerance and freedom and to protect religious
minorities who are facing threats and ultimatums. We urge the Government of
Pakistan to recognize the gross misuse of the blasphemy laws and the urgent need
for their reform or repeal."

In the meantime, Nettleton is urging Christians to pray "that these threats will not be carried out, that there will not be
bombings, that there will not be violence against the church there. Secondly, we
need to pray that they will still stand strong, whatever happens. This can be a
time of great witness."

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