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Some parents take the added precaution of not telling their children about Jesus because they are terrified they will fall prey to accusations under the blasphemy statutes. As such, an entire Christian generation of young children is growing up not knowing their faith for fear that it will lead to potentially disastrous consequences.
Some Christians find the easiest route out of this sewer of oppression is to simply convert to Islam. According to some estimates, from between 2005 and 2010 an average of 400 Christians took this course.
Yet, conversion isn’t always a voluntarily affair. Many Christians have been killed — some even burned alive — for failing to convert. Only last month, two Christian girls from Punjab were forced to marry and convert to Islam after they were kidnapped by a wealthy businessman. As a spokesman for a Pakistani Christian legal aid organization says, “Kidnapping Christian girls, conversion and forced marriages have become common practice.”
Ironically, the increased rise in Islamic harassment comes at the same time that Pakistan’s Jinnah Institute issued a report documenting and denouncing the persecution of Christians and other non-Muslim religious minorities in Pakistan. Yet, that news also led one priest to note that the Institute’s Muslim chair had now risked her life because she “exposed herself on such delicate issues.”
In fact, most political attempts to lessen Christian torment — be it by Christians or Muslims — have proven quite fatal. Since January 2011, both the governor of Punjab province and Pakistan’s Minister for Minorities were assassinated after each had campaigned against blasphemy legislation.
The political climate for Christians has become so toxic that Punjab’s Minorities Affairs Minister was prevented from presenting this year’s provincial budget because Muslim representatives chafed at a Christian being given such a prominent responsibility.
This action brought a sharp response from the leader of the Pakistan People’s Party Minorities Wing, which said, “Every citizen of this country, regardless of any religious belief, has an equal claim to it…Condoning such bigotry and intolerance will only confirm the worst impressions about Pakistanis.” Some Pakistani Muslims are working overtime to lower Pakistan’s already dim national image.
In May 2011 alone, Christians have witnessed: a hospital ER chief refuse to treat a wounded Christian policeman; a 29-year-old Christian mother of three abducted by a Muslim co-worker drugged and gang-raped; and Muslim landowners destroying and desecrating a Christian graveyard. In all three instances, police refused to open an inquiry.
Yet, despite all the suffering, the experience has served in many instances to resolve and deepen Christian faith. According to one Catholic priest, while fear and panic may create a sense of unease and fear in their minds, “The faithful participate in large numbers at mass because they find comfort in the word of God.”
That truth was perhaps best displayed when armed Muslims recently broke up a Presbyterian Church service in Punjab by desecrating the Cross, destroying copies of the Bible and beating several elderly Christians with bamboo sticks. The Church, however, refused to pursue criminal charges. A statement released by its leaders read in part, “Forgiveness is more powerful than revenge.”
If only the sentiment were mutual.
Frank Crimi is a writer living in San Diego, California. You can read more of Frank’s work at his blog, www.politicallyunbalanced.com.
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