Federal Parliamentary Republic
Prime Minister Imran Khan
In Pakistan, Christians are considered second-class citizens and are discriminated against in every aspect of life. Church leaders can be arrested if they don’t abide by the authorities’ wishes. These arrests act as warnings to the Christian minority and intimidates them further. The COVID-19 crisis led to an increase of aid being provided to Christian day laborers only if they converted to Islam. Pakistan’s infamous blasphemy laws continue to be leveraged to accuse non-Muslims (or minority Muslim sects) of insulting the Prophet Mohammed or the Quran—even a false accusation can lead to mob violence. Additionally, a silent epidemic of kidnappings, forced marriages and forced conversion of Christian girls and women continue to take place in Pakistan.
“’Arzoo’ is a third-generation Pakistani Christian girl,” says one source who wishes not to be named. “She is one of many who go through the trauma of abduction and forced conversion annually. Christians in Pakistan are asking for prayer for the legal procedures and trial that lie ahead, for justice to be upheld and lives and families to be safeguarded.”
Persecution has remained steady in Pakistan this year. Violence against Christians for their faith continues to happen at extreme levels, but discrimination and pressure are daily realities for Christians throughout the country. The COVID-19 pandemic led to a campaign where hardline Islamists tied food aid to conversions, and Christian hospital workers were sent to COVID-19 wards with no protective gear, because they are viewed as expendable. Christians can be taunted for wearing a cross necklace, accusations of blasphemy can happen because of Facebook posts (and lead to violent mob reprisals) and anyone who converts from Islam is viewed as an apostate.
Since most Christians live in Punjab Province, many incidents of persecution, discrimination and intolerance occur there. However, next to Punjab, the province of Sindh is also notorious for being a hotspot for bonded labor, affecting many Christians as well. All Christians in Pakistan are potential victims of abuse and discrimination, but anyone caught converting from Islam bears the brunt of persecution in Pakistan. Even established churches come under pressure and surveillance from the government.
Open Doors is active in the Persian Gulf countries through the ALIVE network of partner churches, but for reasons of security, we cannot say what we exactly do where.