Christians in Pakistan form around 3% of the population, and are generally despised by the Muslim majority. Many Christians live in great poverty and are restricted to dangerous, dirty, low-status jobs, such as cleaning sewers. Violent attacks have increased in the last two decades. Christians seldom get justice, because police usually discriminate against them.
Each year, an estimated 700 Christian women and girls are kidnapped, raped, forcibly converted, and married to Muslims. Maria Shahbaz was only 13 years old when she was abducted at gunpoint on 28 April 2020 and forced to convert to Islam and marry a Muslim. Her birth certificate was shown in court to prove she had been too young to marry, but her abductor submitted a fake marriage certificate giving her age as 19. Despite this, Lahore’s High Court ruled that Maria willingly converted
to Islam and was legally married.
Two weeks later she managed to escape and re-joined her own family. She has begun legal proceedings to overturn her forced marriage and forced conversion.
Pakistan’s notorious “blasphemy” laws are often used to make false accusations in order to settle personal grudges. Christians are especially vulnerable, as simply stating their beliefs can be construed as “blasphemy” and the lower courts usually favour the testimony of Muslims, in accordance with sharia (Islamic law).
The “blasphemy” laws include a mandatory death penalty for defiling the name of Muhammad. Although no executions have ever been carried out, seven Christians were on death row as at October 2020 and about another 20 in prison on “blasphemy” charges. Imran Masih, sentenced to life imprisonment in January 2010, has had his appeal hearing postponed almost 70 times. Between 1990 and 2019, 15 Christians were murdered because of “blasphemy” allegations, even before their trial could be conducted in accordance with the
law. Entire Christian communities have been violently targeted by Muslims following allegations.
Pray that the “blasphemy” laws will be repealed and those awaiting trial or execution protected and exonerated. Ask the Lord to be a “wall of fire” around Christian women and girls keeping them safe from abduction, and that the justice system will protect the innocent.
The above content can also be found in the Praying for the Persecuted Church (2021-2022) booklet