Last year in Pakistan more Christians were abducted, more Christians were forced to marry and more churches were attacked than in any other country on the World Watch List.
All Christians in Pakistan suffer from institutionalised discrimination, with occupations that are seen as low, dirty and derogatory being officially reserved for Christians, most of whom are from the poorer classes. There are reports of Christians being treated aggressively simply for wearing a cross, and cars with Christian stickers are more likely to be stopped by the police.
Hannah* told BBC Asian Network, “We’ve seen it become more difficult, both public and private demonstrations of faith. There have been, just in the last 17 years, an increase in acts of terrorism which directly target churches and Christians, and then on a lesser scale in terms of impact of violence, in what we call ‘squeeze’ events that affect Christians on a day-to-day— the daily grind, making it harder to get jobs, harder to find employment and be able to receive professional education.”
An estimated 700 Christian women and girls are abducted every year in Pakistan. They are often raped and forced to marry Muslim men, which also involves forced conversion. If their families complain, they are accused of harassing the ‘voluntarily converted’ girl and her new family. Attacks on churches are also on the increase, such as the Easter attack in 2016. “Those attacks aimed to silence, aimed to intimidate and to say with a very strong message: You’re not welcome,” says Hannah.
A new law allows the government to monitor and close down NGOs, and any church not registered as an NGO will be considered illegal. Church activities are regularly watched – although security is provided to many churches by the authorities, these security personnel report back on what they observe. There are even some reports of these guards attacking church leaders. Each Bible printed by the Bible Society of Pakistan has a serial number so that it can be traced and tracked.
“It’s not just freedom of speech; it’s also freedom of thought that’s very much at risk,” Hannah said. “You’re so fearful that you cannot tell your children the fullness of what you believe, because you’re afraid what they will say about the content of their faith may be misinterpreted as blasphemy. Then you are silencing and debilitating an entire community of people.”
Your support and prayers make a real difference to the lives of our brothers and sisters facing extreme persecution in Pakistan. Despite all the pressure on Hannah and Christians like her in Pakistan she remains committed to Christ. “I’m optimistic because I’m sure that that fire in the community will be used and it will be used for good. Pakistan needs different people, it needs diversity and it needs commitment. And we are there, we’re committed to our country, we’re committed to our people, and we will remain to serve our land.”
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imprisoned, falsely accused, and hated simply for following Jesus.