​Editorials: Converting in Pakistan a capital crime

PUBLISHED ON 25 July, 2016 

BY Lyndsey Koh

Pakistan (MNN) — What’s the worst thing that could happen if you talked about your faith in Jesus Christ with someone? They could get awkward around you…. Maybe no longer see you as someone they’d like to be friends with….If you knew that would happen, would it still be worth it?

In Pakistan, talking about your Christian faith with someone can have more severe consequences than just an ‘unfriending’ on Facebook. This is the story of a couple who recently experienced those consequences.

An Anticipated Baptism A​ccording to a UNHCR report on religious conversions in Pakistan, orthodox Islamic by laws consider converting out of the Muslim faith a capital crime. And often family members or neighbors feel bound byhonor to kill friends or family if they discover that person has converted to another faith, like Christianity. Bruce Allen with Forgotten Missionaries International(FMI) recently returned from a trip covering Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Indonesia, the world’s three largest Muslim-dominant nations.

(Photo courtesy of FMI)

While in Pakistan, Allen witnessed the baptism of a young, Muslim-background couple who had been led to Christ by an FMI evangelist.Allen says, “That’s a very large thing in Pakistan because it is so against the law there that those who leave the Muslim faith and get baptized as Christians are subject to the death penalty by law. Yet, here were courageous young believers willing to make this stand, and they wanted to do it in the presence of the wider Body of Christ.

 So they were waiting till people from the US were there to participate and observe.”Their TestimonyThe young couple was eager to share their testimony with Allen. It all started when they were given a New Testament and began to read it.Allen shares, “They knew about Jesus through the Koran because He’s regarded as a prophet in Islam, but they didn’t know much about Him.

 And they said the concepts of Christ’s love, His mercy [and] forgiveness, they used the words that they were ‘mind-blowing and heart-shaking’. And they decided to follow Christ.“But coming out of a Muslim family, they live in an extended family. They were still living with [the man’s]parents, other siblings, and [the couple] has young children as well. So you have multi-generations living in a compound together, and two of them are now Christians. They would huddle together at night behind their closed bedroom door to read the Scriptures together.“I asked, ‘How can we be praying for you in the weeks to come?’ And they said, ‘We want to learn how to share our faith with our family and our friends, even though we know we could be ostracized or persecuted, really we want to learn how to do that.’”Just a few days after Allen returned home from his travels, he got an email from FMI’s national director inPakistan. The recently-baptized young man had been attacked by his own family.The AttackAllen shares the story.“This extended family was constructing a new home, so under construction, fairly open. 

There’s walls and aceiling on the first floor, so they’re beginning to work on the second floor, but it’s fairly open on the second floor.“He was helping the other men in the family. They were just having some conversation during construction and it turned to spiritual matters, and so he was sharing his new faith with these family members. He explained to them how he was now a baptized Christian.

“They rushed on him and started to beat him. There was so many that they surrounded him.“He couldn’t quite escape, but there was a stairway leading up to the second floor. So that was his way out, he thought, and he just ran upward. They pursuedhim, they picked him up intending to kill him, and threw him off the building.“Providentially, he landed in a pile of sand that was being used to mix cement. So he only broke a couple bones in his arm. And because he was now on the ground, and they were on the second floor, he was able to run and escape from them, go back to the compound where they had been living, get his wife and children and escape, fleeing for their lives.”

The Safe HouseHouse

(Photo courtesy Open Doors USA)

“So now, [the couple] and their two young kids are residing at one of the safe houses that FMI supports in Pakistan,” Allen says.“Several of our partners have banded together to run anetwork of safe houses across Pakistan because the need for persecuted Christians — for emergency shelter, for medical care, for a transitional place as a safe haven until they can get resettled in a new location is so great.”

On Open Doors USA’s 2​016 World Watch List, Pakistan is ranked as a country with ‘extreme’ persecution levels against Christians. More than anything, believers in Pakistan need encouragement from the greater Body of Christ around the world — to know they are not forgotten, they are not alone.By sharing what happened to this young couple whom Allen met with just weeks ago, it hits home for the FMI staff, and hopefully for others wanting to understand more of what our brothers and sisters in Christ face in creative-access countries.

“I just wanted to make this story of persecution a littlemore personal and say this is what is happening. Sometimes it’s not a massive attack. We hear about what just happened in France on Bastille Day, a massive attack, a terrible thing. And yet, each one of those lives lost, it’s a personal tragedy in a family,” says Allen.“So here was this man and woman who had said, ‘Yes, we’re willing to follow Christ, and we’re aware, they had counted the cost, and now that cost is being exacted upon them. 

And they’re willing to pay it, but they just need to know that yes, the rest of the Body of Christ still stands with them”They’re Not AloneAllen asks, “I would love for the Mission Network News audience to rally around this young couple who have been very courageous, who are growing in their faith. They’re willing to testify of Christ even under strenuous situations and circumstances in Pakistan.“Pray for his swift healing. Pray that they would be able to find a new permanent, safer place to live. Essentially, he will have to find a new job. [They will need] help to underwrite the cost for education for the kids while they’re in school still, but from the safe house, because now they are without income.”

(Photo courtesy Open Doors USA)

Pray also “that the kids would make the transition to anew school, a new set of friends, things like that. As well as the loss of their relatives, their family, that the kids would be able to emotionally handle this as well. Those would be the major prayer requests.”Please also pray for ministry partners who run these safe houses for Christians in Pakistan.“The pastors, the shepherds from the faith houses arereally quite adept with dealing with these situations,” Allen shares. “But you can pray for the provision of resources for them. They have to keep medical supplies, groceries, pay the utilities, things like that. And they want to be able to do that. So pray for God’s provision on their behalf.”

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