Displaying items by tag: Pakistan
On 15 November, Pakistan reached an agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for the release of a $700 million tranche, part of a larger $3 billion bailout package agreed in July. This announcement constitutes a significant relief for the struggling economy, as Pakistan is facing a severe balance of payments crisis and dwindling foreign exchange reserves. The leader of the IMF team noted several causes for encouragement; he said that inflation is expected to decline over the coming months amid receding supply constraints and modest demand, together with aid from international partners, leading to improved economic confidence. However, he warned that Pakistan remains vulnerable to global risks like geopolitical tensions, commodity price fluctuations, and tightening global financial conditions. This agreement comes as Pakistan prepares for general elections in February 2024 and aims to stabilise its economy, which has been in free fall for years, leading to rampant inflation and widespread financial hardship.
A court in Pakistan has sentenced a Muslim man to 25 years in prison for killing a Christian woman who rejected his marriage proposal. Muhammad Shahzad, also known as Shani, was sentenced in Islamabad for killing Sonia Allah Rakha, a 24-year-old Christian woman. The judge commended the police for their thorough investigation, which led to Shani’s conviction while acquitting three other accused individuals, the group said. Shanik shot Sonia on 30 November 2020, after her family declined his marriage proposal due to religious differences. He initially fled the scene but was later apprehended by the police.on. The victim’s family said that the accused had been harassing Sonia for the previous six months and had tried to force a physical relationship with her.
The Taliban exists in Afghanistan and Pakistan, but the two forces are not compatible. Recent clashes between them caused the closure of a significant connecting thoroughfare between the two countries. Trucks carrying fruits, vegetables, and other commodities were stranded at the Michni checkpoint border crossing. The two groups were firing at one another, and authorities from both governments are trying to determine the cause and how to de-escalate the conflict. The border between the two countries is 1,675 miles long, and for decades it has seen many conflicts between the security forces. Pray for the negotiating parties of both countries to reach an agreement about this critical border crossing that will keep the border open and flowing for aid supplies (1 Corinthians 1:10).
Over 100 people were arrested in Jaranwala after thousands of Muslims burned churches and vandalised homes. The unrest was sparked by claims that two Christian men tore pages from the Quran. The historic Salvation Army Church was still smouldering on 17 August, one day after the riot. The ruins are surrounded with barbed wire, The situation remains tense. Public gatherings have been restricted for seven days. The men accused of damaging the Quran have been charged with blasphemy, punishable by death. An accusation of blasphemy can result in widespread riots, lynchings and killings. Yassir Bhatti, a 31-year-old Christian, was one of those forced to flee their homes. ‘They broke the windows, doors and took out fridges, sofas, chairs and other household items to pile them up in front of the church to be burnt. They also burnt and desecrated Bibles, they were ruthless.’ Videos on social media show protesters destroying Christian buildings while police appear to look on.
Pakistani Christians are crying silently for peace, understanding, and respect for their religious symbols. But their cries are not heard domestically or globally. Christianity has been an integral part of Pakistan's multi-religious society since its inception in 1947 when Muhammad Ali Jinnah promised equal citizenship rights. In 2023 Christians are treated as second-class citizens, discriminated against, and targets of hostility and violence. Often the blasphemy law is misused against them, further worsening their situation. A comprehensive strategy that includes improved security measures for religious minorities and educational campaigns to foster tolerance and mutual respect is needed urgently. The government needs to uphold its commitment to religious freedom and safeguard all its citizens, as enshrined in its constitution and in line with international covenants. Pray for the government to reassess its approach toward religious minorities and condemn violence and threats against them. Pray for incorporating religious tolerance and coexistence in the curricula for school and public awareness campaigns.
Pakistan is one of the world’s leading persecutors of Christians. Iranian and Afghan believers face less persecution than Pakistan’s Christians. Most Christians are in the lower castes, and are taken advantage of by the higher castes. Christian women and girls are vulnerable. Reports indicate a silent epidemic of kidnappings, forced marriages and forced conversions of Christian girls and women. The state authorities do little to counter this practice. This endemic prejudice and persecution is unreported in the West’s media. A typical case is of a 13-year-old Christian girl being kidnapped by a 44-year-old Muslim man. Two days later her father discovered she had converted to Islam and was married to the man, who already had a wife and two children. Every year about 1,000 Christian and Hindu girls and young women are abducted, sexually assaulted, forcefully converted to Islam, and married to their abductors. In the majority of cases the victims are intimidated into silence and remain captive.
Video footage of Tabitha Nazir Gill, a Christian nurse, being beaten up by colleagues went viral in 2021 after she was accused of breaking Pakistan’s penal code by insulting Mohammed, a crime which carries the death sentence. She went into hiding as police investigations continued. Later she said, ‘The mob wanted to kill me but I kept praying to Jesus and I opened my eyes and felt I saw angels. From that moment I knew that I would be saved. I am thankful to Jesus Christ, my Lord and my God, for giving me my freedom. Jesus is mighty to save.’ She thanked God for those who had secured her safe passage out of Pakistan, including ‘the miracle’ of being granted an immigrant visa to a new country in the West, which cannot be disclosed for safety reasons.
After an assassination attempt on ex-PM Imran Khan, the born-again Muslim, a political battle between him, the civilian government, and its military backers is spilling onto the streets. Khan is campaigning for snap elections and his return to power. The flurry of accusations, questions, and investigations after he had been shot in the leg does not bode well for political and social stability in the world’s fifth most populous country, the only nuclear-armed Islamic republic. Within 24 hours of being shot, the physically fit 70-year-old went on camera to deny that he was the target of a lone-wolf attack; rather, he blamed it on a plot hatched by PM Shehbaz Sharif, the internal security minister, and a senior military intelligence officer. Without offering any proof, he demanded they all resign and encouraged his supporters to keep protesting. Pakistan has lost many leaders whose killings have never been properly investigated.
‘With smiling faces they are praising God and giving thanks in their trials and sufferings,’ reported a mission worker, describing Christians in the area worst affected by devastating floods in August and September. He was helping to distribute Barnabas-funded food, clean water and practical aid to remote Christian communities where no other aid had reached. Christian farmer, Chand, felt very blessed by God who had provided ‘for His people through His people’. Pray that the joy of the Lord continues to be their strength during these trials. Praise God that Pakistan's Supreme Court has granted bail to three Christians accused of blasphemy. They were charged after distributing Christian literature and posting offensive material online. Pray that they will all now be acquitted or the cases against them dropped and pray for their protection from attack by zealous Muslims.
Only four years ago, PAK7 international had a staff of three people, one in the UK and two in Pakistan. It is incredible to see what God has done. In 2022, through partners in Pakistan, they had 30 people working with them; by 6 October there were 19 more. While three of last year’s interns moved on to new pastures, all 22 of the media school graduates are starting their internship programme and joining eight small production teams, ready to learn and grow. Internship is excellent training for young Christian media professionals, and is now giving a voice to young Christians in Pakistan. They have an incredible opportunity to make great programmes which will change the lives of generations of young viewers. Today’s growth is vital for them as they step up production of high-quality Christian shows for their channel.