Pakistan (MNN) – If you’ve been following Mission Network News for any length of time, you know that holy days are when terrorists are most likely to strike.
Every Easter and Christmas, we have a story from somewhere around the world where extremists take advantage of a full house of worship and both chaos and tragedy ensue. Such is the case in Quetta, Pakistan. FMI’s Bruce Allen confirms the following: “At least 12 people were killed on Sunday and more than 50 injured when three terrorists stormed a church in Quetta, Balochistan.” In this case, the attack took place while children were rehearsing for a Christmas play. Police were already stationed on the church compound when the attack took place, mitigating what could have been a far worse situation.
However, he says, “This is the first attack on a church inside Pakistan that is claimed by the Islamic State and their affiliates in the country.” In fact, their national country director explained to Allen that one of the terrorists uttered an ominous threat, “Right before one of the attackers blew himself up, he said, ‘Merry Christmas. This is our gift to you and there is more to come.’”
FMI has one supported church planter serving in the vicinity of the attack. Pastor Aziz has five church plants going on this area, two of which he just started this year, in areas about six miles away from where the attack took place. Quetta has been a hotbed for terrorist recruiting, and Aziz frequently requests prayer for both himself and his wife as it is a challenge to raise their children in such an environment.
In spite of understandable concerns, there are no calls from church leaders to cancel Christmas festivities, says Allen. “Christmas is going on, even though they are in mourning, at this point, especially for fallen brothers and sisters. They’re saying, ‘We need this. We need to recognize that this is precisely why Jesus has come.’”
As many of us will sing in relative safety about ‘Peace on Earth’, there is an opportunity to pray, too, he adds. “I pray that those who walk in darkness will soon see the great light that that is for all the world, especially for those who live in the land of the shadow of death [Isaiah 9:2].” Pray as you’re singing for God’s peace to saturate countries like Pakistan. Especially “…to give Christians their courage as well as wisdom and insight—knowing how to deal with the persecution that they face; Pray for the victims with families, because we want to weep with those who weep.”
Pakistan remains one of the most challenging places in which to openly follow Christ. Persecution and discrimination have increased dramatically over 2017. Although there is vulnerability, FMI has no plans to quit or be driven into silence. Allen says, “We want to prepare Christians. We want to share our resources with them of training, of financial support for the church planter so that they will stay in ministry and be encouraged to do so, rather than retreat. We want them to continue to advance the cause of the Gospel in Pakistan.” (Click here for more information on FMI’s work in Pakistan.)