How many Christians are there in Pakistan?
There are 4.2 million Christians in Pakistan – which is only 1.8% of the country’s population of more than 229 million people.
How are Christians persecuted in Pakistan?
In Pakistan, Christians are considered second-class citizens and are discriminated against in every aspect of public and private life. Although there were no major attacks against churches last year, there are almost constant attacks against individuals. Believers who have converted from Islam are the most vulnerable to persecution.
Christian women and girls are particularly vulnerable in Pakistan. Reports indicate there is a silent epidemic of kidnappings, forced marriages and forced conversion of Christian girls and women in Pakistan. These ‘marriages’ mean that a girl’s parents don’t have legal recourse to rescue their (often underage) daughter – and it is a widely-used tactic to persecute minority faith communities, such as Christians.
Pakistan’s infamous blasphemy laws are increasingly being leveraged to accuse Christians and other non-Muslims of insulting the Prophet Mohammed or the Quran – punishment can be the death penalty. False accusations are often made to target Christians after an unrelated dispute, and even a false accusation can lead to mob violence.
What’s life like for Christians in Pakistan?
Christian women and girls are constantly at risk of sexual assault, abduction and forced conversion. This was brought to the world’s attention in 2020 when 13-year-old Arzoo was taken from her parents by a 44-year-old Muslim man. Two days later, Arzoo’s father was informed that the abductor had produced a marriage certificate stating Arzoo was 18 and had converted to Islam. A court gave custody to the ‘husband’.
Thankfully, after outcry both inside and outside Pakistan, judges ordered Arzoo’s release. But many families never see their girls again, as the authorities rarely bring the perpetrators to justice. And for those like Arzoo who do escape, the trauma of what they went through places a huge shadow over their lives.
Christian men are particularly vulnerable to being falsely accused under Pakistan’s blasphemy laws. They are often compelled to take lower-state jobs referred to as ‘chura’, a derogatory word meaning ‘filthy’. Church leaders can be arrested if they don’t abide by the authorities’ wishes, and these arrests are often intended to act as warnings to intimidate the Christian minority.
How can I help Christians in the Persian Gulf?
Please keep praying for your brothers and sisters in Pakistan. Your prayers make an enormous difference to those following Jesus no matter the cost.
Open Doors is active in the Persian Gulf countries through a network of partner churches, but for security reasons, we cannot say what we do where.
Heavenly Father, look with mercy on Your children who suffer oppression and injustice in Pakistan and draw them into closer relationship with You. Protect our brothers and sisters who live under the daily threat of violence or hostility. Encourage women who despair in unloving or abusive relationships. Give them Your peace, and a loving community outside the home. Comfort believers who have been falsely imprisoned and intervene to secure their freedom. Help Your church in Pakistan to be salt and light to their communities. Amen.