Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Sunday before I left on this trip, my Pastor handed out maps of the world with most countries listed on the back. He asked us to pray for 7 countries a day for the next 30 days. The kids and I looked over the map at lunch time and decided that we would rather focus our prayer on the counties we had connection with. Countries where we had friends - France, Kenya, Iraq. Countries we had lived in or spent time in - New Zealand, Togo. The country we would be living in - Colombia and the country Dad was living in now - Pakistan. To really pray for a country and the Christians there, it is helpful to understand what they need prayer for.
It is legal to be a Christian in Pakistan, but that does not mean it is easy. I did not realize it until traveling here, but Pakistan operates on an unspoken caste system. Christians are at the very bottom of the list, living in poverty and danger. It is difficult for even an educated Pakistani Christian to get a job. Job applications are reviewed by Muslim Pakistanis and are mysteriously eliminated from the pile of eligible applicants.
What are the living conditions like for a person in poverty in Pakistan? Poverty means one does not own a car. Houses are small and provide shelter, but little else. There is no heat other than a fire on the very cold nights. They do not have electricity. There is no running water. You do your laundry in the river that is littered with trash. Just as mosques have become sights for terrorist attacks, so have churches.
A recent situation in Pakistan has brought the plight of Christians to the attention of the world. On June 14, 2009 Asia Bibi, a 45-year-old mother of five, was working in a field with other women. An argument started when some of the women refused to drink water fetched by Asia because she was a Christian. A case under "blasphemy laws" was registered against her by the other women claiming that Asia had made derogatory remarks against the Holy Prophet. The court sentenced her to a fine and imprisonment. After being held in isolation for more than a year, she was sentenced to death by hanging. The case caught the attention of Human Rights groups and became world news. Mr. Taseer, a senior member of the Pakistan Peoples Party, appealed for the pardon of Asia Bibi. Asia is still in prison waiting for the date to be fixed for the examination of an appeal filed by her family against the decision that sentenced her to death for blasphemy.
On January 4, 2011, Mr. Taseer was assassinated in Islamabad. He was shot by a machine gun 26 times. One of his own Elite Force Guards, Mr. Malik, killed him. Mr. Malik says he did this because Mr. Taseer recently defended the proposed amendments to the blasphemy law. Mr. Taseer knew that his stand against the blasphemy laws could cost him his life. He wrote on Twitter on Dec. 31 "I was under huge pressure sure 2 cow down b4 rightist pressure on blasphemy. Refused. even if I'm the last man standing."
So although it is legal to be a Christian in Pakistan, it is risky business. Even if you are a Muslim who believes in the rights of others, including Christians, it is risky business. Pray for more Pakistanis like Mr. Taseer who are not afraid to stand up and defend the defenseless. Pray for the Christians in Pakistan as they pay for their Christianity daily.

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