Pakistan (MNN) – The new year is proving challenging for Pakistani churches. By mid-spring, some may be shut down. Typically, persecution against Christians in the country stems from society or family. However, FMI’s Bruce Allen says there is now a state-sponsored tactic targeting churches.
“On January 2, the government of the Punjab province, which is kind of the breadbasket of the nation, announced a crackdown on Christian churches across the province. The mandate was veiled with a lot of polite overtones…But the bottom line was that any church that the government deems does not comply with newly imposed security standards by March 31, the government will forcibly seal and close. And they say ‘this is our top priority’,” Allen explains.
Mandatory Security Updates
Government inspections for a few FMI supported churches are already scheduled. These churches have less than three months maximum to be in shape for security approval. This is a challenge. Christians in Pakistan are a minority; most are impoverished and oppressed. Their churches do not have funds for security updates.
“The mandate I have seen does not specify what the minimum-security requirements for the churches are. But, our national director in Pakistan explains that he believes that churches should immediately equip themselves, at the least, with metal detectors, and closed-circuit television cameras with off-site monitoring, and archiving of imaging,” Allen says.
Pakistan is ranked on #5 on Open Doors USA’s World Watch List. The World Watch List ranks the top 50 countries where Christian persecution is most severe. Violent attacks against churches in the country are not uncommon. However, considering the culture of the country, and the position Christians are in, Allen indicates there is a danger to the government’s demand for churches to update their security.
“The government’s explaining that it wants each congregation to be responsible for its own security and enhance the security at their church site. That sounds reasonable…but what the government is essentially saying to the Christians is ‘Don’t rely on us to help you in case of an attack. You’re on your own.’ Which then also is a veiled invitation to radicals, go ahead and attack,” Allen says.
A Previous Goal
But, by God’s providence, FMI began an initiative last November to update security for its Pakistani church partners. The organization is already helping partners update their security measures through its Church Security and Crisis Response Initiative. However, FMI must now speed up its timetable. It also needs more resources to equip partners in the accelerated time frame.
Currently, FMI partners are slightly relieved the process to update security is already in motion. It also offers a chance to help guide other churches, even those not supported by FMI, through this storm.
“Our national board in Pakistan is convening with all of our church planters and disciple-makers in Pakistan and will be discussing the implications of this government mandate, how to deal with compliance issues, how to be eligible for the security enhancement and crisis response initiative through FMI, and get the ball rolling on those things,” Allen says.
During the next trip to Pakistan, an FMI team will inspect some church sites to measure whether or not they are meeting the government’s demands as well as prepare these churches for what could happen if they do not.
“It’s going to cost a few thousand dollars to fortify each church site. We’re talking about existing churches, but they just need additional equipment and resources. In Pakistan where the congregations are impoverished, this is almost an insurmountable task,” Allen says.
Along with metal detectors and CCTV equipment, churches will also need first aid kits, first aid training for volunteers, security training for volunteers, barbed razor wire fencing, generators, and more.
“We’re asking Mission Network News’ audience to be praying with us about the implementation of things that God has put in our hearts, even before this government mandate. We see God is preparing us for it, but it means we need to act quickly,” Allen says.
Pray they can update fast enough to prevent closure. Pray for funds to be delivered swiftly to supply equipment for security upgrades. Finally, pray for God to work through this situation and be glorified in the process.
Header photo courtesy of FMI.