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According to the CIA World Factbook, about 3.6% of the population of Pakistan belongs to one of the two biggest minority faith groups in the country - Christianity and Hinduism. There had always been a blasphemy law in Pakistan, but changes to the legislation in the early 80s expanded the list of potential offenses and for the first time included the death penalty.
A leader of one of the largest churches in Pakistan visited our office a few weeks ago. We asked him how we can pray for believers in Pakistan. Because of safety concerns, we are unable to share his name or face.
Many people were tortured and arrested when the blasphemy law came into effect. The church in Pakistan is not able to pay very much attention to evangelism. Mostly, evangelism means preaching to the Christians and reaching out to people of other faiths. Reaching out to Muslims is especially sensitive...The extremist groups have penetrated into society too much. Sometimes they come and see what I am doing in my congregation. If someone comes to me and says, 'Help me learn about Christ', I say we don’t do that. We don’t baptize people from a Muslim background. It’s a big frustration we have. [The church needs to have a relationship with that person first, to understand the sincerity of their faith.]
... The growing intolerance is larger than the things being done to minimize that. The Church is at an important stage. We are struggling to be a church in an Islamic land, but we're also asking how we can spread the gospel given the challenges we face. If I am a little uncareful, somebody can come and burn the whole community.
Pray for wisdom and discernment for church leaders who face life and death consequences in sharing their faith, leading others to faith in Christ, or in speaking out against traditions that conflict with the gospel.
The Church in Pakistan is beginning to get involved in and influence family matters -- more than ever before. Instances of domestic violence and requests for divorce among Christians are on the rise. Why is the Church only now beginning to address these issues?
The Church in Pakistan is not very strong. We are maturing slowly. Persecution is going to continue in whatever forms it exists. It’s not going anywhere any time soon. The Church is mature where facing persecution is concerned, that’s why they’re still there. Historically, leadership did not reside with local believers. They are now recognizing that they must take care of these things themselves. There was a lot of tension experienced by the Church in Pakistan because of this -- for identity and proving its leadership. Maturity has been slow. We have come a long way.
The Church in Pakistan always looked up to someone else to help them. Very little has been done for families, but this is high time we start doing that. People are demanding divorce.
Pray for the marriage counselling, pre-marriage counselling, and marriage seminars and workshops that are now being planned in various centres across Pakistan. Pray that churches would understand the need for trained counsellors and seek out those people and qualifications. Pray for encouragement for those believers who are struggling in difficult or distant marriages.
What's the best way to support the Church in Pakistan?
I think the lack of accountability has done a great damage and taken away the credibility of the sincere working organizations. There are organizations who are diligently working towards the best interests of the society and the Church, but there is a lot of division and false teaching also. If you’re looking to get into partnership with churches, choose a recognized church and ministry who have a global track record and public accountability. It is a moment of awareness for so many people.
Pray for safety and wisdom for those ministries working openly and underground in Pakistan to share the gospel. Pray that God would thwart those seeking to cause division or spread false teachings. Pray for the TWR team in Pakistan as they work to translate, contextualize, and reach out to those seeking the gospel. They do so at great personal risk.