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Pakistan

“I came [to church] in the morning with my whole family for prayers and worship but returned home with no-one. My mum took her last breath in my arms; my dad and sister died.”

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Shaloom Naeem lost his parents and sister in the bombing of All Saints Church in Peshawar

Teenager Shaloom Naeem’s family were among more than 100 Christians who died in the deadliest-ever attack on Pakistan’s Christian minority. All Saints Church in Peshawar was targeted by the Pakistani Taliban in a double suicide bombing on 22 September 2013. Many of those killed and injured were children.

Despite his loss, Shaloom, like many of the victims of the attack, gave a courageous testimony:

Though my entire family is dead I am not afraid to go to the church. We should thank God for His great love.

Outbreaks of violence against entire Christian communities in response to international events or personal disputes are becoming disturbingly frequent. On 9 March 2013, 178 homes and 75 shops belonging to Christians were destroyed in an attack on Joseph Colony, Lahore, by a 3,000-strong Muslim mob over a false blasphemy allegation against a local Christian. 

 The pernicious “blasphemy laws”, which prescribe the death penalty for “defiling the name of Muhammad”, are often used to settle personal scores. Christians are particularly susceptible to malicious, false accusation by Muslims and can spend years languishing in prison waiting for their cases to be heard.

Christian women and girls in Pakistan are especially vulnerable. Every year, hundreds are kidnapped, forced to convert to Islam and marry their Muslim abductors, who subject them to physical and sexual abuse. The authorities do little to prevent this outrage, which is used by some Muslims as a means of spreading Islam.

The prospects for the Christian community are poor, as discrimination keeps them trapped in poverty and illiteracy. Many are “bonded labourers”, akin to slaves; they cannot afford to send their children to school, and thus the next generation cannot break free from the cycle. 

Tradition traces the beginnings of Christianity in Pakistan to the mission work of the apostle Thomas, and some churches in Ancient India have a long history. The subsequent Islamic conquest eliminated Christianity in the region for several hundred years. A significant Christian population has grown, however, over the last couple of centuries and is now 5 million strong. In 1956, Pakistan, which is 95% Muslim, became an Islamic Republic, and since 1991, policy has increasingly been influenced by an Islamist minority. Sharia law has a significant place in public life.

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    • In an earlier incident in Saisomboon village, three teenage Christian girls were disqualified from taking their final school examinations because of their faith. The village chief said that in following Christianity, Noi (15), Net (15) and Nut (14) had forfeited their right to education. Five families from the village have now converted to Christianity. A spokesman for Human Rights Watch for Lao Religious Freedom expressed the view that the authorities were trying to find every possible way “to stop the spread of Christian religious freedom in the area”. Pray that the girls will be allowed to complete their education and that opposition to the Christians in the village will cease. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed 23 hours ago

    • Five Christians have been charged with murder in Laos after a sick woman sought prayer at her local church, converted to Christianity and later died. Mrs Chan, from Saisomboon village in Savannakhet province, had been ill for two years when she approached the church. Her health improved for a short time, and she and her eight grown-up children came to faith in Christ. The sons and daughters wanted a Christian burial ceremony, but the authorities forbade this unless they renounced their faith, which they refused to do. When Christians in the area protested, five were arrested and subsequently charged with Mrs Chan’s murder. Pray that the God of justice will have compassion on His people (Isaiah 30:18) and ensure their acquittal from this false accusation. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Fri, Aug 2014 00:00

    • A Christian from Loynam village in the Savannakhet province of Laos was arrested on the morning of 29 May and tied to a post before being imprisoned. Two weeks earlier, police and village security officers had gone to Mr Sort’s home and threatened him with eviction from the village and confiscation of all his property if he did not give up his faith. He refused, despite repeated attempts to coerce him. The village chief then seized around £300 of Mr Sort’s money. Give thanks that our brother, who has been a Christian for less than two years, has stood firm in his faith, and ask the Lord to renew his courage and strength (1 Corinthians 16:13). Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Thu, Aug 2014 00:00

    • Iraqi Christians are losing even previously safe havens under the relentless assault of ISIS. On 25 June, the militant group attacked the historic Christian town of Qaraqosh, near Mosul, driving its mainly Christian population of around 40,000 to flee. Many Christians from Mosul had gone there after the fall of their own city earlier in the month. Kurdish forces were able to repel ISIS from the town, allowing some people to return to their homes for the time being, but their security remains extremely precarious. Pray that the ISIS advance will be stopped and that the Iraqi security forces will be able to regain the captured territory. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Wed, Aug 2014 00:00

    • Heavenly Father, we cry out to You for the Christians left in Mosul, mostly elderly and sick, as they now face the threat of sharia penalties introduced by ISIS: the amputation of limbs for thieves, crucifixion for criminals and the death penalty for apostasy. We pray that You will protect them from the brutality of the militants. We pray for peace and healing for those who have already been threatened or attacked, and for the safe return of those who have been kidnapped. We pray too for those struggling to pay the humiliating jizya tax that the militants have imposed. We ask that the attempt to restore a united Islamic state under one ruler in the cross-border territory controlled by ISIS will come to nothing. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Tue, Aug 2014 00:00

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