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[vc_row][vc_column][vc_custom_heading text=”” use_theme_fonts=”yes”][vc_single_image image=”99704″ img_size=”full” add_caption=”yes” alignment=”center”][vc_column_text]06/25/2019 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – Christian persecution in Pakistan is unfortunately some of the worst in the entire world. This year, Open Doors ranked the country as the fifth worst persecutor of Christians and, unfortunately, several incidents over the past month have justified that ranking. Pakistani Christians continue to cry out for an end to the discrimination and violence they face every day. In the midst of the atrocities, one silver lining stands out – Asia Bibi, who spent 10 years in prison for a false accusation of blasphemy, was released and sent to Canada. We are grateful to God for her release, but consistently pray and advocate for other Christians who live in fear of discrimination and abuse.

On May 1, 2019, Pastor Naveed Azam, the leader of an Assemblies of God church in Karachi, Pakistan, received a threatening letter from an unknown person. It read, “Be prepared to pay five million Pak Rupees (approximately $32,000 USD) or get ready to bury 50 members of your congregation.” Although the message justifiably raises concern, Pastor Azam continues to preach in a community that is dedicated to tearing down his church. He needs prayers to remain strong especially in this time when his safety and the lives of his congregation are under threat.

Approximately 10 days after that incident, in a strange but deeply ill-mannered event, vandals defaced and destroyed about 40 graves of dead Christians and made sure to uproot the crosses that were found on each of these graves. This incident happened in Chak village in the district of Okra, a city located in the Southwest of Lahore.

The following week, on May 15, 2019, Sara Aslam, a 17-year-old Christian girl, was abducted and raped by Ali Raza, a Muslim in Sheikhupura city in the Punjab Province. Although a First Information Report was registered against the perpetrator, the police did not arrest the rapist until several Christians drew their attention to the incident. In two other rape incidents that occurred a few days apart, Sania Lateef, a Christian girl was kidnaped by two Muslim men – Muhammad Naveed and Muhammad Perveze from Faisalabad. Her parents filed a complaint to the police, however, police refused to register the First Information Report. Four days later on May 29, 2019, Sheetal Asghar, another 17-year-old Christian girl was reportedly abducted, raped, and converted to Islam by a group of Muslims in Sheikupura. Thankfully, she was able to escape and reunite with her family after almost a week away from home.

In another incident, a Christian garbage collector was murdered by a Muslim flower trader for not picking up the rubbish in front of his shop quickly. Abbas Masih was stabbed to death as he was cleaning the streets in Lahore on May 20. According to eyewitnesses, the shopkeeper became angry after Abbas told him that he would pick up the dried leaves from his store after he was done with the section of the road he was sweeping. The shopkeeper then called him a “choora,” which is a derogatory word used against Christians, and stabbed him. Abbas passed away in the hospital.[/vc_column_text][vc_custom_heading text=”“Incidents of Christian persecution occurring reflect the plight of religious minorities in Pakistan. Unfortunately, a wave of religious intolerance against Christians seems to be on the rise.”” font_container=”tag:h5|text_align:left” use_theme_fonts=”yes” css=”.vc_custom_1561474464608{margin-top: 50px !important;margin-bottom: 60px !important;padding-right: 20px !important;padding-left: 20px !important;}”][vc_column_text css=”.vc_custom_1561474449024{margin-bottom: 0px !important;}”]

The very next day, a 35-year-old Christian auto-rickshaw driver, Sagheer Masih, was robbed, beaten, and poisoned by three Muslim men and one woman. Sagheer, being the only Christian rickshaw driver in his community, was targeted because of religious hatred, prejudice and apparent jealously of his success.

Qaiser Ifrahim Saroya, a former member of the provincial assembly of Punjab, told International Christian Concern (ICC), “Incidents of Christian persecution occurring reflect the plight of religious minorities in Pakistan. Unfortunately, a wave of religious intolerance against Christians seems to be on the rise. Christian teenage girls are the most vulnerable in this regard. They are consistently abducted, raped, and in an attempt to cover-up the crime, forcefully converted to Islam.”

Recently, social media has been used to share incidents of discrimination against Christians and is helping spread the word in Pakistani communities. For example, in Karachi, a Christian named Kashif Masih, was tortured by police, leaving deep marks on his lower back which are evident on the picture shared on social media. Also, in a video uploaded on social media, a Christian nurse along with her colleagues narrated how they were forced into sex slavery in Nisar Medical Complex, in the district of Rahimyar Khan.

To exacerbate the already troubling situations, reports indicate that several Christians who are already in prison are prohibited from expressing their faith. In one incident in early May, Muhammad Abdul Razaq, a Muslim prisoner in the Central Jail of Kot Lakhpat in Lahore snatched a Bible from a Christian inmate and tore it to pieces.

Saroya also commented on the events that often lead to Christians being imprisoned, saying, “False allegations of blasphemy to settle personal scores remind us how little has been done by the government regarding abuse of blasphemy laws. Such incidents occur with impunity which create a sense of vulnerability…and a lower class citizen among members of minority community.”

While lamenting about the persecution Christians face, it is important to highlight that there is cause for celebration. After 10 years of serving a blasphemy sentence she didn’t deserve, on May 8, 2019, Asia Bibi was set free and left Pakistan for asylum (self-exile) in Canada. In October 2018, the Supreme Court of Pakistan acquitted her based on insufficient evidence, though she was not allowed to leave Pakistan until the verdict was reviewed. Her release sets precedent for others who are imprisoned to hopefully be released as well. Please join us in praying for our persecuted brothers and sisters in Pakistan.

For interviews, please contact Olivia Miller, Communications Coordinator: [email protected]