Sehresh (her real name protected for security reasons) put on her headphones as she stared out the window of the little office from where all she could see were the spires of mosques. She hoped to block out the sound of horns, brakes, vehicles and the regular call to Muslim prayer. Every so often she thought about opening the window, but the reminder that only polluted city air would fill the office stopped her. She immersed herself in the stories of women; sharing how they were raped and paraded naked through their town for not doing their work properly.
Sehresh, a young and passionate Pakistani Christian lawyer, knows the risks of being a Christian woman in the workplace. She knows she did not get the job just because of her exceptionally high grades at the local bar exam. Her father warned her on her first day of work that she is considered a potential trophy. He was right.
“They (the Muslim majority in her community) would like to force me to convert to Islam and have me married to one of their brothers or even to themselves,” she says. “As a Christian I have to watch my back all the time.
“Please pray for me that I am able to seek justice for abused women from Hindu and Christian backgrounds and also to remain safe myself — sometimes I struggle to find the balance,” she explains when asked how believers around the world can be praying for her.
Sehresh is a friend of Project ALIVE, a program that has been supported by Open Doors in Pakistan and across the Gulf region for more than 35 years. The men and women who received literacy training and biblical formation at ALIVE have been an inspiration to Sehresh who was privileged to attend a Christian school, receive formal education and then make her way through professional legal school.
She says: “Every time I faced discrimination and threats from fellow Muslim students who wanted me to convert or defend my religion, I was able to stand firm. This was not only because of my own personal faith, but because of the faith and witness of the hundreds of men and women I have seen receiving their certificates for adult literacy, Bible literacy and Christian education at the ALIVE graduations I have attended since I was a little girl.”
The collective witness and experience of men and women like Sehresh strengthens the Pakistani Church. In those moments Sehresh can draw on the strength and experience of ALIVE students. ALIVE counselors also are encouraged that someone like Sehresh is choosing to stand firmly on behalf of the oppressed.
“We rely on the witness and courage of others,” says an ALIVE worker. “When Sehresh first approached us about becoming involved, even in a tiny way, in the process of amending the family law in our country, we were afraid for her. But her perseverance is refreshing. She is not ignorant of the risks; however her dedication to her family in Christ outweighs the fear.”
“As long as I have people praying for me and I stay close to the Lord, I am able to do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” testifies Sehresh.
Pakistan is ranked eighth on the Open Doors 2015 World Watch List of the worst persecutors of Christians (https://www.opendoorsusa.org/christian-persecution/world-watch-list/) .
Compiled by Jerry Dykstra. For media inquiries, contact Christine Cape at 404-545-0085 or Christy Lynn Wilson at 770-401-9842.