Pakistan (MNN) — The Taliban has now officially enforced sharia law over the Swat valley in what looks like a desperately attempt by the government to create peace with the group. It appears to have had the opposite effect.
In an interview with Todd Nettleton of Voice of the Martyrs, Nettleton expressed the opinion that the Taliban sees this as a bit of an encouragement for expansion. Now that they have been given one area to govern, they have a foothold in the government and leverage for laws elsewhere in Pakistan.
It seems unlikely that the provision of a specified area for the Taliban's control will quench their desire to expand into the entire country. According to Reuters, Taliban members have indicated that sharia law mandates their obligation to hold arms against any government (including that of Pakistan) harboring anti-Muslim sentiments. This is already a dangerous indication toward violence and expansion, which could be devastating if the Taliban takes their new reign as an invitation to infiltrate all of Pakistan.
Whether or not this all takes place, the current situation does not look good for believers. Nettleton explains, "This is the part of Pakistan that is known to be the most-radical Islamic and therefore most-radical anti-Christian. We have had Christian workers in that area who've been kidnapped, they have been badly mistreated, and they've been beaten because of their Christian witness. Some have been killed, simply because they were known to be Christians and known to be involved in outreach to Muslims."
This is bad, as it is, and will only worsen if sharia law spreads further than the Swat Valley. Nettleton explains that the allowance of this type of power for the Taliban has already given them leverage against Christians. "As these militants have gained standing, they have gained clout within the country that also promises more pressure against the church."
Christians continue ministry in the area, although quietly and secretly. "It would be sort of easy to either move out of the area or keep your head down and just try to be safe," notes Nettleton. "We need to pray for those people to have the courage to continue ministry in spite of this new situation that they find themselves in."
Pray for the safety of believers as they face persecution, and for wisdom and courage as they share the Gospel.