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Pakistan: religious freedom issues on front burner

By January 11, 2017
FMI_Pakistan flag

Pakistan (MNN) — Pakistan is becoming a dangerous country for Christians, Hindus, and other religious minorities because of persecution in the name of religion.

(Pakistan flag courtesy Wikipedia)

The country’s infamous blasphemy bill was answered in one province by the Criminal Law (Protection of Minorities) Bill, which failed the last hurdle to ratification.  The bill prevented the forced conversion of religious minority women to Islam.  Circumstances usually included those who were abducted, forcibly converted to Islam, and given as sex slaves to influential Muslims.  Christians, Hindus and other religious minorities felt like the bill offered some protection and recourse, until, under pressure from strident Islamists, the Sindh Assembly governor refused it.

It’s just one of four provinces, but the failure of this legislation leaves religious minorities feeling isolated and vulnerable to the abuses of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws. Christians are always wary in case an allegation of blasphemy is raised to settle a personal score.  The government has ignored calls to amend the laws, and political efforts to back reform have ended in bloodshed.

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(Map courtesy World Mission)

Christians make up just two percent of the population.  Churches can still work and meet unhindered, but they will be monitored, and sometimes their services are interrupted or attacked.  Congregations hire guards to protect their meetings.  Christians are treated as second class citizens.

However, the nation has a great spiritual curiosity and hunger.  The way the followers of Christ live their lives goes a long way toward keeping the door open for conversation and questions.  Greg Kelley of World Mission says they’ve been partnering with the local churches to resource them with multiple copies of The Treasure, solar-powered digital audio Bibles.

Quick facts on The Treasure:

*Each $50 unit can hold more than 400 hours of audio material.

*World Mission has over 185 New Testaments recorded in an audio format that can be placed on The Treasures.

*World Mission has access to around 5,000 languages. More than 200 languages have an entire New Testament available.

*Each experience is unique but in most instances an oral learner will listen to The Treasure within a group of 8-12 people.

*Each Treasure is used more than 2,000 hours over the duration of its lifetime.  Anywhere from 100 to as many as 2,000 people will hear about Christ through each Treasure.

However, in places like Pakistan, he says, “Anytime you have a physical device that makes it obvious, as far as your strategy, you have to be so sensitive because it’s drawing attention to your national partners.”

With a flurry of blasphemy cases recently coming to light, Kelley says they’ve taken the creative route.  “Instead of distributing our Treasure, our solar-powered audio Bible, we’re actually putting in wireless transmission devices that essentially create hotspots.”

The hotspot makes a footprint invisible, which adds a layer of security for the Gospel worker and the person making the inquiry. “Our national partners are essentially creating a beacon that’s transmitting the Gospel out to anybody within 100 yards of them with a Smartphone so they can receive it.”

(Photo courtesy World Mission)

(Photo courtesy of World Mission)

Even with a creative answer to increasingly difficult security situations, there’s another aspect to this approach that needs prayer.  Kelley explains, “If I were to say, ‘Let’s put one gifting inside of a national partner,’ that gifting would be discernment.  You just have to be so sensitive to the Holy Spirit as far as who you can trust.”  The wrong person could be trying to bait a follower of Christ in order to turn him in and accuse him of both apostasy and blasphemy.  Prayer is part of the package.

It takes time to connect with and create an inroad into a community or into a family.  The Gospel never promises safety, but it does promise hope.  “It really comes down to someone knowing they’re loved.  That takes a heart for them, and a love and a compassion that will reach out to them.  That’s really where our emphasis is put upon friendship evangelism in these hostile areas.”

Aside from helping World Mission continue to resource believers, Kelley urges you to keep praying for the missionaries and the national partners who are living in these areas.  “[They’re] risking their lives on a daily basis, just for the sake of getting the Gospel in there.”

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