Date: January 10, 2018
Pakistan (MNN) – Pakistan has landed itself on two lists for severe religious freedom violations. The first? The U.S. State Department’s special watch list.
Special Watch List
Being placed on the special watch list comes across as a little less severe than being re-designated on the “countries of particular concern” list or the CPC. The CPC lists countries that the U.S. State Department carefully watches for abuses of religious liberties and freedoms.
Policies and recommendations can be made by the U.S. State Department to help curb these abuses by threatening financial aid and more. However, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has been pushing for Pakistan to be added to the CPC list for years. FMI’s Bruce Allen explains one reason why:
“The blasphemy laws are another major sticking point. They are abused frequently in Pakistan and they target Christians disproportionately. The way that textbooks used in education malign Christians, and therefore reinforcing stereotypes in the majority population against Christians, is another factor that the State Department is looking at in these things.”
Allen believes one reason for Pakistan not being added to the CPC list includes the fact Pakistan has been a U. S. ally against the war on terrorism. Still, in previous months POTUS Donald Trump has threated to cut aid to Pakistan if the country does not better address the terrorism problem within the country. In fact, certain Pakistani parliamentary members have been known to aid terrorist in the country.
World Watch List
The second list Pakistan finds itself on is Open Doors USA’s 2018 World Watch List (WWL), which debuts today. The World Watch List is an annual list ranking the top 50 countries where Christian persecution is most severe. And for the last few years, Pakistan has ranked in the top ten. (North Korea continues to rank #1 for the 16th year in a row). Furthermore, Islamic extremism continues to be a dominant driver of global persecution that is responsible for initiating oppression and conflict in 35 of the 50 countries on the list.
“It is a very strategic tool for those of us in global ministry to use because about 75 percent of the world’s population lives in areas with severe religious restriction,” Allen explains.
“And even the U.S. State Department recognizes that Christians in more than 60 different countries around the world face persecution either from their government or even just within society from their neighbors, from their families simply because of their belief in Jesus Christ and deciding to follow Him.”
Open Doors spends about six months formulating the data which comprises of the World Watch List. The data comes from reports, interviews, research through documents, and more. Researchers go through a set of 96 questions during interviews and when pouring over documents which cover five different areas of life. These range from discrimination to physical violence.
Benefits of WWL
But, Allen says the tracking data Open Doors compiles into this World Watch List helps ministries, like FMI, do ministry more effectively. It’s also useful to every Christian because as members of the Church, each Christian is grafted into a global family. And when this family is persecuted or in need, it’s up to Christians everywhere to help.
“Every month, in recent years, 322 Christians are killed for their faith. And 722 forms of violence are committed against Christians,” Allen shares. “Most of this is occurring in what we call the 10/40 window, that area where most of the people groups who are unreached with the Gospel live that are between 10 degrees and 40 degrees latitude.”
The degree of persecution Christians face varies and can include being beaten, poisoned, abducted, raped, arrested, and being forced into marriage, to name a few.
“The researchers track these things, measure them, and they examine what drives the persecution. Whether it’s a government sanctioned thing … according to the constitution of the country, or the laws that are passed in the country — if they violate basic human liberties for following one’s beliefs,” Allens details.
“Or is it not just driven by [the] government but social– so the majority religion, or mobs, or extended family. So, beyond what the laws and government may dictate, what are some other social factors? So many things are very carefully taken into consideration when they’re coming up with this watch list.”
Using the WWL
Allen uses the World Watch List on a frequent basis to help understand what’s happening in the cultures of the areas his ministry works in. He also uses it to help his ministry partners best assess how to share the Gospel in the midst of the challenges and dangers each faces. The list can also help prayer and financial partners of FMI to strategically pray and give as well.
In fact, all Christians can use the World Watch List as a prayer guide. Allen encourages Christians to go through the list and pray for each country specifically. Christians can compare the current year to previous years of the list and praise God for where the prayers have been answered. The list can also help Christians see where the need is great and financially give to ministries working in those particular countries.
A Great Harvest
Yet, despite the persecution of Christians in Pakistan, Allen shares many people are still turning to a faith in Christ.
“We have seen whole families, not just individuals, coming to know Christ from Muslim backgrounds. Which has been a major prayer request for a long time,” Allen says. “[But] family members who remain entrenched in Islam are often the ones who are attacking their own family members who have become Christians. It’s not strangers who are doing a lot of this persecution, it’s family.”
Yet, more people turning to Christ are willing to get biblical training than FMI has normally seen in the past. People are eager to share the Gospel within their country and see their country people come to know Jesus, even if they endanger themselves in the process.
“We do see a lot of positive things, but it’s all happening in the context of significant challenges,” Allen shares. “So, we ask for prayer. Pray wisdom, creativity, and insights for these church leaders, that God would resource them with what they need. Whether it’s a tangible resource, financial resource, things like that.”
Pray also for Christians facing persecution in these countries. Pray for their strength, their faith, and their perseverance. Ask God to bless their ministries and aid them in sewing and harvesting the seed of the Gospel.
Want to help these Christians? FMI works in the three largest Muslim-dominate countries of Indonesia, Bangladesh, and Pakistan. Consider giving to help these national co-laborers for the Gospel.
*FMI comes alongside church planters in Indonesia, Pakistan, and Bangladesh to provide training, and tangible and financial resources.