Pakistan (MNN) – In Pakistan, an unexpected transition of leadership means even more uncertainty for the country’s Christians.
The lower house of Parliament recently elected lawmaker Shahid Abbasi as the country’s new prime minister after the former prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, was disqualified by the Supreme Court for concealing assets.
Abbasi will serve as interim prime minister until around mid-September, when a by-election will be held to elect the next prime minister. Sharif has formulated plans for his brother to take over if he wins the election.
“What we’re looking at is a time of transition for Pakistan, and at Open Doors USA, of course, the first thing that we’re thinking of there is the consideration for the situation of Christians on the ground in Pakistan, considering all that they are already enduring,” Open Doors USA Advocacy Director Kristin Wright says. “There’s a great deal of religious persecution already taking place there. Always our concern is, ‘What is this going to mean for the Christian community?’”
Open Doors lists Pakistan at No. 4 on its World Watch List of countries where Christians face the most persecution. Those who convert from Islam to Christianity can receive the death penalty.
“I also want to bring up a statistic from Pew Research that actually shows that right around 62 percent of Pakistan’s largely Muslim population actually supports the death penalty for anyone who leaves Islam,” Wright says. “We’re looking at a country where Christians are right around maybe 2 percent of the population, and so they’re a very marginalized society.”
Wright has visited Pakistan multiple times, where she has witnessed the specific ways in which Christians are treated as second-class citizens.
“I can tell you that the situation for Christians is that they are often considered sort of at the lowest rung of society,” Wright says. “Education is difficult for them to access. They also take up very low paying jobs. Many Christians have been put on trial for blasphemy, have been in prison.
“There is a woman, Asia Bibi, a case that many people are now familiar with, who remains in prison for the supposed crime of blasphemy.”
The U.S. recently took a step toward defending the persecuted around the world, as the Trump administration named Kansas Governor Sam Brownback as ambassador at large for international religious freedom.
Wright asks that you also take action on behalf of persecuted believers. She says we should be praying for courage for believers and for release from unjust imprisonment, as well as peace during this time of political transition. Remember specifically to pray on November 12, the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church.