Pakistan (MNN) – The 2003 cease-fire agreement between Pakistan and India may be in danger.
Last week in the Kashmir region, there was an exchange of fire on both sides of the Pakistan-India border. Each country has accused the other of instigating the event, calling both retaliations an unprovoked firing.
The gunfire exchange continued into Saturday, making it the fourth day of fighting, and has resulted in both soldier and civilian deaths on both sides of the border. Villages in the area and border posts have been shelled in the fighting. Yet, this isn’t the first time an outbreak of violence has happened at the border.
The Kashmir region has been a disputed territory between the two countries since the British colonial rule ended in India. During August of 1947, British-ruled India was partitioned into two countries: present-day India and Pakistan. Now, both countries claim the Kashmir region as their own.
The Washington Post reports the gunfire exchange began after Islamabad made the accusation that India had killed four Pakistani soldiers in the Kashmir region. Complicating the matter are the rebel groups, which India has accused Pakistan of arming and training, and Pakistan denies. However, the rebel groups demand the Kashmir region become one of two things: to be absorbed by Pakistan or become an independent country.
The fighting in the Kashmir region prompts a question for FMI, though. Will the rising tensions negatively impact FMI’s upcoming conference in the region? Sharing more about the conference, FMI’s Bruce Allen:
“The theme of the conference is very timely. The theme is ‘answering a world that opposes the Church.’ And there is such opposition in Pakistan from suicide bombings and other forms of terrorism. To the very threat of poverty and discrimination, things like that, that Christians must deal with that we’re excited about getting materials and ideas and looking at Scripture that will be very pertinent.”
The conference is set to take place in March. It will be the biggest, both in terms of attendance and length, which FMI has held in Pakistan. The conference, which usually runs for three days, will run for five days in order to include all the necessary information FMI wants to share and teach. The FMI-held conference functions as a supplemental education for the Pakistani pastors and church planters who hold degrees from seminaries and Bible institutes in the country.
Teaching, Preparing, Serving
During the conference, Allen shares that three tracks will be explored to align with this year’s theme:
Track One: Apologetics—meant to help build the understanding and credibility of the Bible and Gospel message, and how to give a defense of the Bible without giving offense.
Track Two: Preparing for suffering as Christians. Suffering and persecution is an expected part of the Christian life, however, Christians in Pakistan face severe persecution.* FMI wants to help church leaders learn how to identify, manage, and respond to the risks they face.
Track Three: Bible Study—participants will have a chance to study Paul’s letter to Ephesians in depth.
“You know, Jesus said ‘in the world you’re going to have trouble, but, be of good cheer because I’ve already overcome the world. So, any evil that comes against you I’ve overcome it. I’m greater than that.’ So, we want to go forward with confidence and with courage, but also be wise about how to do that,” Allen shares.
So please, pray for the security and protection of these Christians and this conference. Pray for their encouragement despite the persecution they face. Ask God to give them confidence, courage, a boldness to proclaim the Gospel, and also wisdom in doing so.
Pray for transportation to go smoothly, the financial needs for this conference to be met, and for this conference’s success. Also pray for Allen’s safety and his work at the conferences. Pray for the translators to work accurately and quickly, and for God’s hand to be evident at the conference. Finally, pray for peace in Pakistan.
And, if possible, would you tangibly help support FMI’s Pakistan conference?
*Pakistan ranks #5 on Open Doors USA’s World Watch List (WWL). The WWL is a ranking of the top 50 countries where Christian persecution is most severe.