Pakistan (MNN) — The Muslim holy month of Ramadan has always been an uncertain time for religious minorities, but a new law in Pakistan is adding even more pressure.
The Senate Standing Committee on Religious Affairs recently approved an amendment that would increase the severity of punishments for breaking Ramadan’s fasting laws. Under the new amendment, people can face three months in prison for eating or smoking in public between sunrise and sunset, among other restrictions.
“Some extremists have pushed forward this law that essentially is trying to control what people do, how observant they are of Ramadan’s fasting and no-drink rules,” David Curry, President of Open Doors USA, says. “So now they’re trying to punish and imprison people who aren’t as observant as maybe the most extreme of the people during Ramadan.
“It’s another example of that sort of command-and-control theology that is prevalent among extremists of Islam.”
Pakistan sits at number four on Open Doors’ World Watch List for countries where Christians face the most persecution. Curry says this new amendment will be used against religious minorities overall.
“I think you’re going to see this used against Christians in various degrees because they’re looking for legal levers in which to put pressure on Christians,” Curry says.
“It’s going to affect moderate Muslims who may not be as observant as some others. But I think this is an example of this battle that is happening within Pakistan for whether it’s going to be an open society or not.”
How can believers in the West make a difference? Curry says it’s important for Christians to let their government know they are concerned about persecuted believers and encourage them to act on their behalf.
“I think this is a country where we need to continue to put pressure on them through legal means, through our government support, make sure that our senators and congressmen are hearing from us and that we understand and know what’s happening in Pakistan against Christians.”
Can you keep this situation in your prayers? Curry asks that you pray for safety for believers in Pakistan, as they’re often threatened and their churches destroyed. Pray also that religious freedom would not be wiped out.