Pakistan (MNN) — Things are heating up in Pakistan, and we’re not talking about the weather.
“Christians are experiencing much more persecution in Pakistan,” says Bruce Allen of Forgotten Missionaries International (FMI).
“There’s a legitimate fear that the government’s not going to look after these Christians, but actually accelerate persecution.”
Worsening persecution is reportedly causing religious minorities to flee by the thousands. But, they’re going from the frying pan into the fire.
“They’re going to other countries in Asia…and yet, they’re finding life is very difficult once they arrive in those countries,” Allen says.
Why are Christians leaving?
According to a recent report, religious minorities are enduring more persecution in Pakistan, with less help.
The schools, homes, and churches of believers, as well as other religious minorities, are routinely attacked. Christians are harassed and discriminated against; blasphemy accusations often trigger mob violence.
Moreover, “In recent months, Pakistan has [re-enacted] the death penalty. They had a moratorium on that for a number of years, but now under the guise of ‘we want to seek the death penalty for terrorists,’ [they’ve re-enacted it],” Allen explains.
“There are Christians in prison–falsely charged under this blasphemy law, and they’re concerned that they could be put to death.”
To escape persecution in Pakistan, and possible death, believers are fleeing to what they think will be a “safe haven.”
Over 100,000 Pakistani Christians have fled to refugee camps in Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Thailand, and the Philippines in the past several years, International Christian Concern reports. There are more than 1,400 Pakistani asylum-seekers in Sri Lanka, according to UNHCR figures; that’s a major spike from 102 asylum-seekers in 2012.
In March, Thai police arrested hundreds of Christians who had fled persecution in Pakistan. Government leaders then pushed for their deportation.
Allen says it’s challenging for asylum-seekers to reside in places like Thailand or Malaysia because these countries have never signed the 1951 UN Refugee Convention, which protects refugees’ basic human rights.
“While it might be easy to get into Thailand as a refugee, once you’re there, you might find that life gets very, very difficult.”
Why does it matter?
Pakistan is consistently “in the news” for religious persecution. On multiple occasions, including last month, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has called upon the U.S. government to make Pakistan a “Country of Particular Concern” (CPC).
This “is the single most powerful message the United States can send to a country which consistently fails to protect religious minorities,” the Foreign Policy Group reports.
And yet, the EU commended Pakistan’s government yesterday for “[taking] effective steps against religious persecution” and said the country has a “significant role to play” in the wider region.
Reports like this one, which highlight the reality of persecution in Pakistan, are barely a blip on the global radar.
“The Pakistani government does not want this to get traction in the media,” Allen explains.
“It’s only as stories about these persecuted believers are trickling out, through agencies like Forgotten Missionaries International, that we’re really understanding what the plight is.”
How YOU can help
Using a network of safe houses, FMI is helping believers “stay put,” instead of fleeing persecution in Pakistan. These Christ-followers want to advance the movement God has started.
“There is no geo-political boundary or force that operates against the work of the Holy Spirit; God is drawing people to Himself,” Allen shares.
“What we try to do is provide a good environment for this new believer to be nurtured and discipled.”
“As brothers and sisters in the Lord, we can help persecuted believers in a place like Pakistan by providing a safe refuge,” says Allen. And by protecting believers, you’re helping God’s Kingdom continue to grow in Pakistan.
“Just because a government or society is closed to the Gospel, we should never believe the people are closed. The Gospel does change lives; I know many Muslims who are coming to Christ in Pakistan.”