Day 15: ‘It is difficult to be a Christian in Pakistan’
By Gary Fallesen, president, Climbing For Christ
When sewer worker Irfan Masih, a 30-year-old Christian in Lahore, Pakistan, fell unconscious after he inhaled poisonous gases locked inside a manhole, he was rushed to the hospital. But the attending doctor refused to treat Irfan because the Muslim doctor was fasting for Ramadan and the patient’s body was dirty.
Irfan Masih died on June 1.
“As you know, Christians are persecuted all over the world,” said Evangelist Haseeb, a Climbing For Christ member and the founder of Save Pakistan, who originally shared with us the story of Irfan Masih. “It is true that Christians in Pakistan are persecuted, too. It is difficult to be a Christian here in Pakistan.
“Approximately 50 percent of Christians are afraid to tell their beliefs and we do not even have the opportunity to have good jobs here. Mostly Christians do sweeper, bathroom cleaners, etc.”
Voice of the Martyrs claims “more than 2 million Pakistanis spend their lives (as indentured servants in brick kilns) working to pay off debts that continue to accrue.” We know this to be true because God last year birthed Climbing For Christ’s Project 8:36 to set free children (some orphans and some with parents) forced to work in brick factories.
“I’m thankful that the Lord uses me for the freedom of many families,” Haseeb said. God has enabled Climbing For Christ to purchase the physical freedom of 27 children and 16 adults. He already purchased their spiritual freedom through the blood of Jesus, which is why this initiative was named after John 8:36 (“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed”).
Haseeb and his wife with siblings Sidra, 10 years old; Sara, 9, and Sjawal, 11, who are awaiting freedom. Climbing For Christ has raised more than half of the $3,240 needed to pay their family’s debt.
Voice of the Martyrs added in its June newsletter, devoted to Pakistan, that many Christians “endure oppressive lives performing slave labor as brick makers. As members of the minority religion, Christians are considered expendable no matter their age.
“Many Christians have been falsely accused under Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, which provide penalties ranging from fines to the death sentence for convictions of blasphemy against Islam, the Qur’an or Muhammad. Since Islam is constitutionally recognized as Pakistan’s official state religion, Christianity is seen as a threat to Islamic authority.”
The Islamic Republic of Pakistan (population estimated to be nearly 202 million) is 99 percent Muslim and 0.7 percent Christian. That Christian minority has few if any rights.
The past two days we’ve been focusing on people living in Muslim nations, where Climbing For Christ serves, who are under siege and in need of our prayers. You can click on links at the bottom of this story to read about Mindanao, Philippines (see Day 13) and Turkey (Day 14). Today, let’s turn our attention to Pakistan.
Background: Pakistan is the fourth most difficult place on the planet to be a Christian, according to Open Doors’ World Watch List. Persecution is a way of life, as we have witnessed in our partnership since 2011 with brother Haseeb and his family.
Persecution is to be expected by those who follow Jesus.
In January 2014, our brothers and sisters at Save Pakistan came under extreme fire from the enemy. The family informed us that a crowd attacked their house – “throwing bricks and shouting abuses loudly.” The work they had been doing – feeding children from poor families or no families, serving widows through a sewing center, helping underage children laboring inhumane hours in brick kilns, and always introducing people to Jesus, distributing Bibles and baptizing new believers – had made them a target.
There had been incidents in the past: a motorbike “accident” for Haseeb in 2011 and an assault on his father in 2012. But in 2014 the attacks escalated, ultimately leading to the abduction of Haseeb’s sister, who was forced to marry a Muslim man and has not been seen or heard from since.
“As the Lord said to forgive those who hurt you, I forgive them,” Haseeb said this week.
He knows what so many persecuted Christians have learned: “Don't be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot touch your soul” (Matthew 10:28a, NLT).
“My dream is Pakistan shall be saved in Christ and they have full freedom to save those who are still in darkness and rescue those still in persecution,” Haseeb said. “To reach out to every single soul with the Good News of Jesus Christ through different projects - to have church buildings, to have orphanage buildings, (and more).”
Pray: For boldness among those Christians who Haseeb said are “afraid” to share their faith with others. Voice of the Martyrs mentions that “local believers [stay] away from the majority population out of ignorance, lack of knowledge [of Islam], or due to hatred and bitterness.” In 2015, I polled 14 Climbing For Christ members in Pakistan, asking how many evangelized among Muslim people groups. The Joshua Project says 386 of 394 people groups in Pakistan (98 percent) are unreached. Only two of the 14 responded that they work among Muslims.
We lift the work and the workers in Pakistan, especially those who feel (as Voice of the Martyrs quoted one persecuted woman) “it’s sometimes like a little sparrow trying to extinguish a fire in the jungle with water in her beak … I am like this sparrow.” That work includes Project 8:36; we ask that God would use His people to provide funding to continue to free children and families from brick factory slavery. We currently need about US$6,300 to free two more families (one with three children and the other with four).
“If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.” – 1 Corinthians 12:26 (ESV)