This past Easter weekend, two events in Pakistan served as reminders of the precarious position of Christians living in societies with Muslims majorities.
The first was, of course, the bombing of a park in Lahore, the ancient capital of Pakistan’s largest province, Punjab. On the afternoon of Easter Sunday, while members of Pakistan’s increasingly beleaguered Christian minority celebrated the holiday, a suicide bomber detonated his device, killing at least 70 people and wounding at least 300 more.
Shortly after the attack, a faction of the Pakistani Taliban named Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, which in truly Orwellian fashion means “Assembly of the Free,” claimed responsibility, admitting brazenly that the attack was “aimed at killing members of Pakistan’s Christian minority gathered at the park to celebrate Easter Sunday.”
Since Christians are less than two percent of Pakistan’s estimated 190 million people, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the attack killed Muslims as well as Christians. Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was outraged and after visiting victims in hospital, declared that, “Our resolve as a nation and as a government is getting stronger and the cowardly enemy is trying for soft targets.”
While I don’t doubt the Prime Minister’s sincerity, he really has his work cut out for him. As the Canadian Broadcasting Company put it, the jihadist market in Pakistan is “saturated.” And as recent events in Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad, demonstrate, there’s no shortage of Pakistanis eager to victimize its Christian minority.
Earlier on Easter weekend, an estimated 25,000 people demonstrated against the recent execution of Mumtaz Qadri. Qadri was hanged last February 29th for the assassination of Salman Taseer, the provincial governor of Punjab in 2011.
Qadri, who was one of the governor’s bodyguards, murdered Taseer because he criticized the way Pakistan’s anti-blasphemy laws were being used against Christians.
In particular, Qadri was outraged by Taseer’s support of Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian whose Muslim neighbors, angered by the fact that she drank the same water as they did, accused her of insulting the prophet Muhammad. Bibi was convicted of blasphemy and sentenced to death.
Taseer wasn’t the only government official assassinated for intervening on her behalf. Two years before, Pakistan’s minister for Religious Minorities, Shahbaz Bhatti, was also murdered.
The large demonstration on behalf of Qadri is an unmistakable sign that many Pakistanis support applying anti-blasphemy laws to Christians. Even if the government is sincere about protecting its Christian and other religious minorities, there isn’t a great deal that the government can do to protect them from the hatred of some of their neighbors.
This is the reality that confronts our brethren in Pakistan.
And, of course, it’s not only Pakistan. As BreakPoint listeners know, events in Iraq and Syria are so dire that the Obama administration recently certified that what’s happening to Christians and other religious minorities at the hands of ISIS qualifies as genocide.
The suffering of our brethren at the hands of ISIS is the subject of a very important upcoming book by Mindy Belz of World Magazine entitled “They Say We Are Infidels: On the Run from ISIS with Persecuted Christians in the Middle East.” Mindy has traveled extensively to this region of the world since 9/11, meeting and befriending the people targeted for their faith. Please be on the lookout for this important book, which will be released in a couple of weeks.
As always, come to BreakPoint.org for information on organizations that support the persecuted Church. And please, pray for our brothers and sisters who routinely face violence and death solely because of their faith in Jesus Christ.
— by John Stonestreet
Stonestreet is the Director of Strategic Partnerships for the Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview and is heard on Breakpoint. Copyright© 2016 Prison Fellowship Ministries. Reprinted with permission. BreakPoint is a ministry of Prison Fellowship Ministries.