Pakistan (MNN) — Sunday’s airport attack is just the beginning, warns the Pakistani Taliban.
The group took responsibility for a vicious overnight assault that left 29 dead and shattered what was left of the sense of security.
A tentative peace process with the Taliban disintegrated in recent weeks. The militant group has split into at least two factions, in part over disagreements about whether to negotiate with the government. David Curry, President and CEO of Open Doors USA, explains, “You have extremism in pockets of Pakistan that are pushing the government toward Sharia law, which would be the ultimate goal of the Pakistani Taliban.” Splinter groups resent the fact that Pakistan has an alliance with the West.
The Taliban have frequently been behind attacks on Shiites and other religious and ethnic minorities in Pakistan, and that violence is likely to increase, cautions Curry. “You’ve got a government that is struggling between the Islamic extremists within their society, and yet, wanting to set up a non-military government, a civil government. It’s a very difficult tension.”
Will diplomacy work? It’s too soon to tell, Curry says, noting, “Certainly if the government chooses to try to start siding with the extremists within their population, and they start to impose stricter rules, that will hurt Christians wanting to express their faith in Jesus in freedom.”
Tensions are increasingly high across the nation with a record-breaking amount of blasphemy charges being waged against both non-Muslims and Muslims alike. Curry says, “Pakistan is #8 on the World Watch List, and that’s largely because Christians are caught in the middle of this ‘civil war,’ so to speak.” Personal vendettas from neighbors, co-workers, and rivals are the most common reasons blasphemy law cases are filed, too.
Pakistan’s Penal Code Section 295C’s death penalty went into effect in 1986 for the “use of derogatory remarks in respect of the [Islam’s] Holy Prophet.” In 1990, the Federal Sharia Court ruled that conviction meant the death penalty, although Open Doors notes that no one convicted under the law has been executed. Most are freed on appeal, often to face mob justice. Several people are thought to have been murdered while on trial, and others have been killed extra-judicially.
What it means for followers of Christ is, “You can be a Christian, but you have to be very careful about how you express your faith. You’re likely to be targeted for discrimination, and you’re going to see acts of violence.”
Under the Taliban in Afghanistan, the situation regarding religious freedom there remains desolate. If the pattern holds true, “If you’re caught in some way sharing your faith with people or being too expressive, it can be very dangerous for you.”
And yet, Curry says although the Church is underground, it is still alive. “It’s not as though the Gospel can’t move forward in the face of persecution. In fact, in the face of persecution, many times, the Gospel advances even beyond what it would without some persecution.”
Ask God to give His people courage to remain as a witness to their nation. “Be praying for its influence, for the safety of believers, for boldness so that people can feel free to share their faith if they so choose.”
Why is Pakistan so important to outreach efforts? Curry explains, “It’s so strategically placed in that region. You’re bordering Afghanistan. You have a border with Iran: really important things are happening in that region. And Pakistan can be a leader, I think, from a Christian’s perspective, in sharing the Gospel in that region.” Click here if you want to help encourage and resource the Church in tough places.