Religious Freedom Prospects in Pakistan Worsen with Recent Election

While Pakistan has never done well with providing religious freedom to those who don’t follow Islam, the recent election of former international cricket star Imran Khan is set to make matters far worse. The new Prime Minister, who has officially declared that his preferred form of government is “the Islamic State as established by the Prophet Mohammad in Medina”, has allied himself with radical Muslims who wish to do everything in their power to stamp out Christianity in one of the world’s most populous Muslim nations.

There are several specific reasons why the Christian community in Pakistan is concerned about Imran Khan’s recent electoral win. First of all, during his campaign, he publicly sought out the support of religious clerics and spiritual leaders throughout the nation.

Even more importantly, he has publicly supported Pakistan’s Draconian blasphemy laws, labeling them as a mere “inconvenience” for people of other religions without noting the fact that these so-called “inconvenient” laws can result in the death sentence for people convicted of the crime.

What is more, he has also stated that he wants to return to a “jirga” law system. This system, in which a traditional assembly of leaders make decisions by consensus, is governed by a mix of ancient non-written ethical codes and Sharia law. A country operating under such a system would undoubtedly be even more repressive of religious freedom than Pakistan is right now.

Pakistan’s 2.5 million Christians aren’t the only ones who are concerned about the new Prime Minister’s stance on religious matters. Hindus and Sikhs, who are also minority religious communities in the country, have noted that Imran Khan is an avid Taliban supporter. Given this fact, many fail to put much stock in his promise to guarantee full protection and religious freedom to minorities in the country.

Nonetheless, Imran Khan’s party has stated that his support for the Taliban is a thing of the past and that the new Prime Minister intends to give minorities full citizenship rights. Such a move, if it were to occur, would be a huge boon to Christians as many face institutionalized discrimination.

Employers and educational institutions alike currently discriminate against Christians, making it hard for those who are already poor to obtain an education and find a good job.

What is more, Christians in Pakistan have it harder than other minority religions in the nation as those who share their faith are often targeted by blasphemy laws and even outright violence. Converts to Christianity face particular danger not just from the Muslim community but even their own families as having a relative convert from Islam to Christianity is seen as a stain on the family’s honor. It is very dangerous for these brave individuals to meet with each other and/or other believers to share their faith, pray and receive counsel and encouragement.

Given these facts, it is not surprising that many Pakistani Christians want to emigrate to other nations that allow more freedom of religion. Nonetheless, there are many brave believers in the nation who are opting to stay even in the face of increased persecution so that there will always be someone present in the nation to bear witness of the Gospel.

Christian organizations such as Voice of the Martyrs Canada is providing specific aid to Christians who want to witness and share their faith with others. VOM Canada offers training to those who will most likely face persecution at least once in the course of their ministry and also provides emergency funds for the families of believers who are thrown in prison or killed for their faith.

At the same time, Voice of the Martyrs, Open Doors and other organizations that work closely with Pakistani Christians are calling on the international Christian community to pray for believers in the nation. Voice of the Martyrs specifically requests that believers pray for Islamic militants in the nation, that their hearts will be turned to the Lord and that they can receive Jesus as their Savior.

The organization is also asking fellow Christians to pray that the nation’s blasphemy laws will be amended or even done away with altogether so that Christians in Pakistan are not targeted for abuse under these laws. Open Doors is asking that believers pray for God’s protection over Pakistani converts from Islam as well as Christian women and girls who are frequently abducted, forcibly married off to Muslim men and forced to convert to Islam.

Through prayers, believers can provide tangible, positive help to Pakistani Christians even as the possibility of persecution in the nation increases as a result of recent elections.

~ Christian Patriot Daily