Religious persecution could increase in Pakistan with new ruling

By March 23, 2018

Pakistan (MNN) — Pakistan just did something reminiscent of the beginning of Nazi Germany, when Jews were persecuted and forced to wear yellow stars.

A New Decree

“The Pakistani [Islamabad] High Court [IHC], like our supreme court, ruled that everyone must declare their religion on national ID documents and certain job applications,” FMI’s Bruce Allen shares. “And human rights groups are expecting that this move is a precursor to increased social violence and persecution of minorities like Christians.”

A rural villager in Pakistan.(Photo Courtesy FMI for MNN use.)

Documents include birth certificates, passports, ID cards, voter registrations, and some applications to government jobs. Furthermore, when entering a government job, such as the judiciary, armed forces, civil services, and more, individuals must submit paperwork declaring that Muhammad was the final prophet. This is known as the Khatm-i-Naboowat.

In a sense, this ruling pushes minorities out of the realm of politics and government jobs while also violating religious freedom in the country. It is yet another example of how the country claims to constitutionally uphold religious freedom, but then puts into place laws which curb that freedom and limit minority religions in their ability to freely practice their beliefs.

Religious Freedom Restrictions

In fact, this restriction on religious freedom is one of the reasons Pakistan is ranked #5 on Open Doors USA’s *World Watch List (WWL). According to the WWL, the type of persecution Christians in Pakistan face is mostly from Islamic oppression, often in the forms of radical Islamic groups.

These groups will rile up Pakistani citizens into a frenzy over what they claim pure Islam looks like. And because many Pakistanis can’t read Arabic, they’re at the mercy of believing what they are taught from their religious and political leaders.

This particular ruling came after a petition by the same Islamist political party, Tehreek-e-Labaik, who protested the Pakistani government’s change to the electoral oath last November. The Tehreek-e-Labaik is evidently passionate about the blasphemy laws in Pakistan and defending the Prophet Muhammad’s honor.

Potential Persecution and Questions

Couple this with talks about lessening the severity of Pakistan’s blasphemy law and it’s hard to know how this ruling will affect people. But it definitely raises a lot of questions. Why does the government need to know people’s religion? How will this information be used against individuals?

(Photo Courtesy FMI for MNN use.) Women enjoying free time at a conference in Pakistan.

As reported by Christianity Today, though, it’s possible that some good could come out of this change. Asylum. If this requirement makes it easier to prove certain people are facing persecution based on their religion, it could help efforts for individuals who are seeking religious asylum in other countries.

Be Prayerful

Still, it’s too early to tell exactly what will happen. But regardless, we can pray.

“Let’s pray that the Christians have courage, have steadfastness, and also know how to thrive in ministry and do it well, even in the midst of persecution, political chaos, or social chaos” Allen urges. “That the Christians reflect stability and Christ’s compassion and purposes.”

Pray also for positive change to Pakistan’s laws surrounding religious freedom and its blasphemy laws.

Find more ways to pray or support Pakistani pastors and church planters through FMI here!

 

*Open Doors USA’s World Watch List is a ranking of the 50 top countries where Christian persecution is most severe.

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