Twelve-year-old Monica, a Christian from Lahore, was kidnapped in August 2016. Her father, Alfred, was later told by police that Monica had converted to Islam and married a Muslim, showing him a marriage certificate that falsely stated her age as 18. Alfred refused to give up looking for Monica, knowing that she had been forced into conversion and marriage, but within weeks the stress had killed him. It is estimated that every year around 700 Christian girls are kidnapped, forcibly converted to Islam, and forced into marriages with Muslims.
Violent attacks against Christians have become disturbingly frequent in Pakistan. They come not just from local vigilantes but also from terror groups, like the targeted suicide attack on Christians at Gulshan Iqbal Park, Lahore, on Easter Day 2016 that killed 74 people.
Pakistan’s notorious “blasphemy laws” – which include a mandatory death penalty for defiling the name of Muhammad – are repeatedly exploited to target Christians, often to settle personal grudges. Those accused, and their entire Christian community, stand at grave risk of violent attacks. Muslims and other non-Muslim minorities also suffer under the laws.
Islam is the state religion of Pakistan and the country’s Council of Islamic Ideology advises the government on the compatibility of legislation with Islamic (sharia) law. School textbooks portray Christians and other non-Muslims as inferior. Pressure from local Muslims and the superiority of a Muslim’s testimony compared to a non-Muslim makes it difficult for Christians to receive justice for crimes committed against them. The police themselves are sometimes involved in crimes against Christians.
Most Christians do low-status jobs, such as cleaning the streets and sewers. Many who work as “bonded labourers” are effectively almost slaves.
Pray that the “blasphemy laws” will be repealed, and that Christians and other innocent people currently on trial under the laws will be exonerated. Pray especially for Christian mother Aasia Bibi whose appeal against her death sentence due to be heard at the Supreme Court in October 2016 was postponed. Pray for God’s protection over Christians in Pakistan, including women and girls who are vulnerable to kidnap and forcible conversion and marriage.