Imagine being told that if you go to church, you could die. Would you dare to go?
This was the situation facing a group of Christians one Easter in Pakistan. The Taliban, the self-proclaimed Islamic State and other Islamic extremist groups had sent out warnings that Christians would suffer during Easter. The Christians knew they were serious – church bombings have become horrifically frequent in Pakistan, particularly around Christian celebrations such as Easter and Christmas.
But despite the very real danger, this group of Christians decided to gather in their church the night before Easter – the threats of extremists would not stop them from meeting to worship Jesus.
Each person held a candle, but the church leader had forgotten to tell people to come and light them from a candle at the front. Then a little girl, just six years old, went forward to light her candle, and began to walk around the room and use her candle to light others.
…candles remind us that even in the darkness of the tomb, there was the hope of Jesus’ promise.
An Open Doors partner asked the little girl why she thought the candles needed to be lit. Thinking of the frequent power cuts her family experienced, the little girl replied, “Because the candles remind us that even in the darkness of the tomb, there was the hope of Jesus’ promise. When Jesus makes a promise it is like a candle given to us when the lights go out. It is a promise that the lights will come back on again.”
It was a promise the Christians needed to hold on to. The next day, on Easter Sunday, a bomb attack in Lahore killed 75 Christians, and injured hundreds of others.
Image is illustrative and not of Shazad
Shahzad is a Christian from a poor rural community. He can’t read and doesn’t know what the Bible says. But he does know about persecution. He says, “Some of the business men who hire day labourers won’t hire me if they know I am a Christian. Everybody has access to the village’s water pump, but my son and daughter are not allowed to drink there.”
Shahzad and his family must endure all this – yet they are unable to read the Bible for encouragement, and they don’t have a good understanding of the gospel to give them hope. An Open Doors partner says, “These people cannot go to a church. What can you do? There’s only one solution. The church has to come to them. That’s why this year we will send out mobile church teams to these isolated Christian communities. See them as a church on wheels. The trucks are managed by people trained by us. We will bring music, films about the Bible and Jesus, and also literature for those who can read. We will meet the people where they are and teach them basic Christianity. We’ll tell them about Jesus and show them His love.”
Image is illustrative and not of Samuel
One of those reaching out to rural Christians is 83-year-old Pastor Samuel*. He left his village 26 years ago, tired of the isolation and persecution he faced in rural Pakistan, and went to the city. But now, even at this late stage of life, he feels called to return to his village.
He says, “We want to be there for the Christians and we teach people from the Bible. They have to discover that there’s not only false hope in this world; true hope can be found in Jesus. If they knew Him and how He has suffered for them to make things right with God, that would give true meaning to their lives.”
In John 8:12, Jesus said “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” Your prayers and support are helping to bring the light of life to our brothers and sisters in rural Pakistan, so they no longer have to walk in darkness.
Pakistan is number five on the 2019 World Watch List, Open Doors’ ranking of the 50 countries where Christians face the most extreme persecution. In many ways, Pakistan can seem like a land of great darkness. Christians are a tiny minority: the official figure is just 3.9 million in a country of 197 million, and they face daily discrimination and frequent violent attacks. The nation’s infamous blasphemy laws are abused to target Christians, with accusations leading to Christians being imprisoned or killed. An estimated 700 Christian women and girls are abducted and forced to marry every year.
And yet, the light of the gospel does continue to shine through the faith and courage of our Pakistani brothers and sisters, and your prayers and support are helping to keep that light shining.
Light a candle and pray. Take a pic and post it on your social media accounts to encourage others to pray. Use the hashtag #prayforpakistan and tag @opendoorsyouth (@opendoorsyouthuk on Instagram). Pray for…
We support people who are beaten, tortured,
imprisoned, falsely accused, and hated simply for following Jesus.