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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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    • The landslide victory of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in India’s general election in May sparked alarm for Christians and other minorities in the country. The BJP is the political wing of a Hindu nationalist movement, Hindutva, which is striving to make India a religiously pure nation. It has given support to Hindu extremist groups that attack Christians, and states under the party’s rule have generally experienced a rise in anti-Christian violence. The BJP has introduced “anti-conversion” laws in a number of states, which are used to prevent legitimate Christian evangelism. Prior to the general election, the BJP pledged to introduce national legislation to curb “missionary” activity and end proselytising if elected. Pray that the BJP will rule justly and that the rights and freedoms of all Indian citizens will be upheld. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed 9 hours ago

    • Pray for Christians in Sri Lanka facing attacks from Buddhist extremists, who have forced the closure of numerous churches. In an apparently positive move, the government has created a Religious Disputes Unit to address conflicts between different groups and combat attempts to create religious discord. But many Christians and Muslims believe that Buddhist extremists are allowed to operate with impunity and that the new unit will not solve the problems faced by non-Buddhists. A cap on the building of places of worship has also been announced, and this seems to serve the Buddhist lobby, which is opposed to expanding Christian activity. Pray for protection for Christian congregations and that their ministry and mission will not be further impeded. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Fri, Sep 2014 00:00

    • Cry out to the Lord for Alexis Prem Kumar, a 47-year-old Christian minister from India who was abducted in Afghanistan on 2 June. No group has claimed responsibility for the kidnapping, but three Taliban militants have been arrested in connection with it. Alexis had worked for an NGO in Afghanistan since 2011, helping returning refugees. He was leaving a school near Herat for Afghan children who have recently returned from Iran or Pakistan when he was seized. Give thanks for Alexis’ willingness to serve the Lord in what remains one of the most dangerous countries in the world for Christians, and pray for his safe return. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Thu, Sep 2014 00:00

    • The case of an Egyptian Christian man arrested following complaints by Muslim neighbours that he had been using his home as a church without a permit highlights the need of the Christian community for more places of worship. The 55-year-old man from Minya in Upper Egypt, where Christians are particularly vulnerable to persecution, was arrested once before, in 2011, for the same offence. Every church building in Egypt requires a permit, but these are notoriously difficult to obtain. Pray that the authorities will show leniency to the Christian man and that a provision in the new constitution addressing the issue of church buildings will be enacted. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Tue, Sep 2014 00:00

    • Kidnapping for ransom has been a persistent problem for the Christian community in Egypt amid the political upheaval and instability following the “Arab Spring” revolution of 2011. On 14 June, Wadie Ramses, a well-known surgeon, was seized in El-Arish. The assailants opened fire on his vehicle and took him away wounded. They later demanded a ransom of ten million Egyptian Pounds (£800,000; US$1.4 million) for his release. Two days later, Christian merchant Gemal Shenouda was captured near his home in the same city. It is thought that Islamic militants with links to al-Qaeda, who have been behind escalating violence in the Sinai region, are responsible for the kidnappings. Pray for the safe return of our two Christian brothers and that they and their families will know the Lord’s peace. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Mon, Sep 2014 00:00

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