Christians in Pakistan – around 3% of the population – suffer frequent discrimination and occasional persecution at the hands of the Muslim majority.
Non-Muslims are particularly susceptible to accusations under Pakistan’s infamous “blasphemy” laws, which include a mandatory death sentence for defiling the name of Muhammad, the prophet of Islam (though this has not yet been carried out). At least 15 Christians accused of “blasphemy” have been murdered by zealous Muslims. Their families and whole Christian neighbourhoods are also at risk of mob violence.
Usually in “blasphemy” cases the higher courts overturn the decisions of lower courts after the accused has spent years in prison. But in June 2022 the Lahore High Court upheld the death sentences of two brothers, both Christians, for alleged “blasphemy”. The following month another Christian was sentenced to death for “blasphemy” by a lower court in Lahore.
The Supreme Court has recognised that these laws are misused, often to settle personal grudges. The court declared in September 2022 that preaching Christianity “is not a crime”, and raised issues such as false and malicious accusations, the typical lack of credible evidence, and the risk of violence to the accused.
Non-Muslim girls and young women are vulnerable to being abducted by Muslim men and forced both to marry their captors and convert to Islam. The authorities are often reluctant to intervene.
Christians often experience great poverty owing to discrimination in employment and education. Many work in low-paid, dirty, dangerous jobs such as cleaning sewers, due to limited employment opportunities. Lack of educational opportunities leads to widespread illiteracy.
Prime Minister Imran Khan was removed from office in a no-confidence vote in April 2022. Khan’s government had opposed discrimination against religious minorities and appointed a Special Representative on Religious Harmony. Many Christians were concerned that progress made by Khan’s government might be lost.
Lift up to the Lord Pakistani Christians who suffer daily discrimination and hostility. Pray that the voices of moderate Muslims regarding “blasphemy” will be heeded. Ask that the authorities will take seriously the abduction of young women and girls.