Christian churches are being ordered closed and those who are steadfast in the faith are losing homes, families and jobs as the cost of being Christian in Pakistan is rising, according to new reports from the Voice of the Martyrs and others. Even the death penalty soon could be a possibility.
The Voice of the Martyrs said, however, Christians are remaining faithful under the persecution, and are in need of prayer.
“The Voice of the Martyrs recently received information from Pakistani contacts that Christians remain steadfast in their faith, although they are losing relationships with their families because of their faith in Jesus Christ,” the VOM report said.
The VOM cited one specific case, that of “Karim,” who comes from a devout Muslim family.
He routinely suffers the loss of jobs, contact with friends, and even homes, because of his Christianity, VOM said.
“After I became a Christian in 1997, I visited my family during the Muslim festival called, ‘Eid-ul-Zaha,’ where Muslims sacrifice animals before Allah,” he told VOM. “I questioned my mother asking her why she was sacrificing animals to Allah and yet in the Christian faith Jesus Christ sacrificed himself for us. I explained there was no need to sacrifice any animals. My mother was shocked. She started verbally abusing me and told me she had noticed a change in me, but had never thought it was because I had converted to Christianity.”
She warned him the rest of the family would not be as understanding as she was.
“Before I left home my brother asked if I was reading the Bible and if I had an interest in the Christian faith. He slapped and verbally abused me, saying Christians are ‘churda,’ dirty people. He said Christians would make me dirty and I should stop reading ‘churda’s books, the Bible,'” Karim said.
VOM reported that Karim has lost jobs because of his faith, and constantly moves from one location to another to avoid harassment from members of his extended family. But he said his Christianity, to which he was introduced by a co-worker who gave him a Bible, is worth it.
“One day I read where the disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray, and after this I also asked Jesus to teach me how to pray. I said, ‘Jesus, I have no teacher who can guide me and teach me about the Bible and faith, give me the Holy Spirit so I can learn about this faith.’ From that day the Holy Spirit has been my teacher,” Karim told VOM.
He said he spent years investigating before he made that decision.
“For two and a half years I was reading it every day. I started a comparative study of the Bible and the Quran. I saw there was a sequence, continuity and discipline in the Bible. I could not find these things in the Quran,” he said.
According to Elizabeth Kendal, who reports on the persecution for the World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty Commission, the root of the developing problem in Pakistan is the nation’s pro-Sharia, Islamist Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal alliance of Muslim devotees, which holds the balance of power in the nation’s National Assembly.
As a result, President Pervez Musharraf frequently makes political agreements that advance his agenda of staying on power while granting the alliance some of its wishes – which could be summarized as the conversion of Pakistan into a Islam-controlled state.
One of the pending proposals is the Apostasy Act, under which any man who leaves Islam for another religion would be killed. Women would be imprisoned for life.
The report also said owners of stores trading in the “un-Islamic” have been ordered to close or “suffer dire consequences,” female students have been threatened if they continue their schooling, and in the Charsadda district, churches have been issued hand-written letters with an ultimatum to close down.
Faith McDonnell, the religious liberty director of the Institute on Religion and Democracy, said the nation’s consideration of the death penalty for leaving Islam is two steps backwards for religious freedom.
“The apostasy bill is the work of political parties aligned with Taliban-style repression,” she wrote. She said such laws would open the door to massive abuse, and in fact, such cases already have been launched.
In one case, she said, a Christian boy was sentenced to death for writing blasphemy on the wall of a mosque. The penalty was based on Muslim “witnesses.” However, the child was illiterate and could not write, she said.
There also have been reports from ASSIST News Service which cited a Pakistani Christian who is a lawyer, Khalil Tahir Sandhu, about random attacks on Christian women who are abducted, assaulted, and then forced to “convert” to Islam.
The Barnabas Fund reported that Shahbaz Bhatti, chief of the All Pakistan Minorities Alliance, confirmed the Christians are being ordered to convert. “We will not do it, even if we have to die,” he said.
Officials also cited similar concerns developing in Egypt, where unsubstantiated claims that Christians were planning to build a church in violation of national law sparked rioting that left Christians injured and their homes and businesses destroyed.
As WND has reported, three Christians also were martyred recently in Turkey by Islamists who feigned interest in a Bible study, then attacked the leaders.
Voice of the Martyrs
is a non-profit, interdenominational ministry working worldwide to help Christians who are persecuted for their faith, and to educate the world about that persecution. Its headquarters are in Bartlesville, Okla., and it has 30 affiliated international offices.
It was launched by the late Richard and Sabina Wurmbrand, who started smuggling Russian Gospels into Russia in 1947, just months before Richard was abducted and imprisoned in Romania where he was tortured for his refusal to recant Christianity.
He eventually was released in 1964 and the next year he testified about the persecution of Christians before the U.S. Senate’s Internal Security Subcommittee, stripping to the waist to show the deep torture wound scars on his body.
The group that later was renamed The Voice of the Martyrs was organized in 1967, when his book, “Tortured for Christ,” was released.