Pakistan (MNN) – Ranked third on the Global Terrorism Index (GTI) by the Institute for Economics and Peace, Pakistan is a known hub of extremism. More often than not, Christ-followers and other religious minorities serve as an easy target for jihadist wrath.
However, terrorists aren’t the only ones threatening Pakistani Christians.
“Mainstream residents, as well as the police, are taking an attitude against Christians that is full of animosity and hostility,” says Forgotten Missionaries International (FMI) Executive International Director, Bruce Allen.
“People [are] just buying into this ideology: if you don’t totally agree with what these terrorists say, in terms of their theology and doctrine, then you’re worthy of death.”
Persecution is no stranger to Pakistani Christians. Pakistan has been in the top 15 of Open Doors USA’s World Watch List since 2010.
Muslim radicals are the boldest and most consistent persecutors of believers, but they aren’t the only ones. Last year, a mob threw a young Christian couple into a brick kiln and burned them alive.
While Pakistani society has long discriminated against Christ-followers, the latest increase in violence has Allen concerned.
“I think we’re going to see an uptick in these isolated events against Christians,” he says.
Here’s a round-up of what’s been happening since Taliban bombers attacked two churches in Youhanabad on March 17:
- March 19 – A church is burned down, and citizens are encouraged to kill Christians who were involved in riots following the March 17 bombing.
- March 20 – Over 100 Christians are taken into police custody for suspected involvement in the riots. Police continue kidnapping Christian men and young boys and bringing them to undisclosed locations.
- April 5 – Police arrest the mastermind of March’s twin church bombings and discover the lynching of two Muslim men was pre-planned to stir animosity toward Pakistani Christians.
- April 10 – Masked Muslims set two boys on fire, after the young men identify themselves as Christ-followers.
- April 16 – One of the burn victims, 14 year-old Nauman Masih, dies.
- April 17 – Masked men try to attack Christian school, shoot security guard and student before escaping on bike.
- April 18 – Eyewitnesses claim police push handcuffed Christian man into river, where he subsequently dies.
According to this report, police say 25-year-old Farman Masih jumped to his death. However, the man’s family defends his innocence and says the police tortured Masih before taking him into custody without an arrest warrant.
“Whether a crime was committed or not, many Christians in Pakistan are beginning to sense that police are against them, not serving them as full citizens of the country,” writes Allen in an email update.
Despite the present risk, indigenous believers want to keep sharing Christ’s love with their neighbors.
Pakistani Christians press on
FMI-supported pastors and evangelists throughout Pakistan gathered recently for a four-day conference. Allen says events like these are rare.
Because FMI helps indigenous missionaries “reach the unreached” for Christ, this often means equipping pastors and church planters for Gospel work in remote regions. These areas are often difficult to reach, making long-distance fellowship nearly impossible.
“It’s great for them to be able to come together in a very open atmosphere, where they can share their concerns, their prayer requests, their praises, and make strategies for further outreach,” says Allen.
“Already we’ve been seeing pastors applying what they’ve learned and going back into their communities, and reaching out to the rest of the population.”
By sponsoring a Pakistani Christian leader through FMI, you can provide for physical needs while they attend to the spiritual needs of the lost.
“[Christians are] discriminated against in terms of education, as well as employment. So, even if a church has 50, 60, 70 people attending, they might not be able to financially support their pastor to stay in ministry,” explains Allen.
“It’s amazing the impact that we can have through this type of sponsorship,” Allen says. “In general, for the cost of what it takes to propel one Western missionary, we can support 50 indigenous pastors.”
Most importantly, keep surrounding Christ-followers in prayer.