Pakistan (MNN) — Locusts munch their way across Pakistan, destroying crops and livelihoods as they go. Last week, Pakistan’s National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) reported swarms in nearly one-third of the country’s districts.
“This locust swarm is one of the biggest they’ve had in more than 30 years. Because of the COVID crisis, it hasn’t hit the news so much, but it is really severe,” says Jonathan*, a Christian worker focused on Pakistan.
These pests inflict serious economic damage. Agriculture accounts for 20 percent of Pakistan’s GDP, and 65 percent of the population lives and works in farming communities, The Guardian reports. Pakistani believers find themselves in a doubly-difficult situation.
Many Christians in southern Pakistan work as sharecroppers, Jonathan says. They pay for everything needed to plant and grow crops and then receive half of the overall profit at harvest time.
“What happens though…when the locusts come through, they destroy absolutely everything. So, these people have gone into debt to pay for all those inputs, and now there’s no crop. They don’t eat if there’s no crop,” Jonathan says.
Furthermore, as a minority community in Muslim-majority Pakistan, Christians are usually last to receive government aid. “Christians are sort of at the bottom … and there have been many reports of discrimination against Christians, even in efforts to help people who’ve been affected by these crises,” Jonathan says.
“Christians have been told, ‘Unless you become a Muslim, or unless you recite the Muslim creed, we’re not going to help you.’ I don’t think that’s official government policy, but it’s been happening. We’ve had many, many reports of that.”
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“Over the last three months, pretty much all the resources that families were able to give went towards the COVID crisis and people who didn’t have any earnings because of that,” Jonathan explains. “Now, with the locust crisis, they don’t have anything left.”
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“In the past, they (Pakistani believers) felt a bit abandoned by the global Church… but this is a chance for us to come alongside them and encourage them and pray for them,” Jonathan says.
“The Pakistani Church is really beginning to step up to the plate to share the Gospel and share Christ’s love with the Muslim majority in ways that previous generations have not.”
*– Name withheld for security reasons.
Header image is a representative stock photo courtesy Bishnu Sarangi via Pixabay.