Pakistan (MNN) — No other year in the last decade has seen more persecution against Pakistani Christians than 2009. As many as 130 Christians were killed through attacks, arrests and detentions throughout the year, according to International Christian Concern.
And so far, this year has not been much better.
Late in January, yet another Christian, Shazia Bashir Masih, lost her life at the hands of a Muslim.
"On January 22, a Muslim lawyer by the name of Mohammed Naeem tortured and killed a 12-year-old Christian girl in Lahore, Pakistan," said Jonathan Racho of ICC. The girl was rushed to the hospital after sustaining injuries "but did not recover and passed away," said lawyers of the Centre for Legal Aid, Assistance and Settlement (CLAAS).
Masih worked for Naeem as a servant for eight months to help her parents financially. Sources say the 1000 rupees (12 USD) she made a month was her family's only income.
Naeem, a famous lawyer in the area, reportedly bribed local authorities to prevent his arrest. However, when the police failed to move against Naeem, Masih's family staged protests outside of government offices.
Their protests attracted the attention of local media, and Pakistan's president soon heard of the case. At this point, Naeem was arrested along with five other individuals related to the crime.
According to Aid to the Church in Need, Naeem appeared in court on Jan. 26, the day following Masih's funeral. CLAAS, who is representing the Masih family, presented their case on Jan. 29. The hearing will resume on Feb. 3.
In addition to Naeem being a well-known lawyer in the area, he is also the former president of the Lahore Bar Association, which is the organization that issues licenses to the lawyers of the area. Because of this sway and other bribes Naeem has offered to the Masih family, they have had difficulty finding representation, according to ICC.
However, ICC also reported on a news conference of CLAAS and church leaders, "CLAAS is still determined to go the distance necessary to secure justice for Shazia and her family."
Whatever the outcome of the trial, Racho remained hopeful about the strength of Christians in Pakistan.
"Persecution cannot stop the Gospel from being preached and from Christians being faithful to Christ. On the one hand, there is an increase in persecution; on the other hand, Christians remain faithful to the faith, and they even continue to spread the Gospel and bring Muslims to Christ," said Racho.
Pray for the strength of the Masih family as they await a verdict. Pray for justice to be served and for this case to be a shift in the way people who persecute Christians are dealt with. Pray for Christians to continue to boldly share their faith.
To learn more about this developing situation, click here. You can also contact the U.S. Pakistan embassy at (202) 939-6200 to make your voice heard. Or you can call ICC at (301)989-1708, or visit persecution.org to find other ways you can help.