Pakistani Christians need help to rise above poverty, terrorism

FMI_Muslim prayer in Pakistan

Muslim workers pause for a few minutes along an alleyway in the afternoon to offer their ritual prayers.
(Image, caption courtesy FMI)

Pakistan (MNN) — According to a new study, over 80% of the deaths caused by terrorist activity last year happened in only five countries: Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nigeria, and Syria.

The Global Terrorism Index (GTI) says most, but not all, of 2013’s terrorist attacks were motivated by religion, and two-thirds of the attacks were carried out by members of radical Islam. The groups al-Qaeda, Boko Haram, Islamic State, and Taliban were responsible for a majority of last year’s terrorist violence.

Pakistan, ranked third on the GTI behind Afghanistan and Iraq, saw a 37% rise in terrorism-related fatalities during 2013. The GTI says most attacks in Pakistan were against religious and educational institutions.

According to Forgotten Missionaries International (FMI), terrorism only adds to the challenges Pakistani Christians face daily.

The plight of Pakistani Christians

Poverty
The average income for a Pakistani citizen is somewhere near $3,100 USD, according to CIA data.

“Now, that’s [the] average. If you’re Christian, it’s less than that,” notes FMI’s Bruce Allen.

Pakistan brick makers

A young married couple teams together to mix clay and
slap it into a metal form. Their baby joins them during
their workday in the “giant sandbox.”
(Photo, caption credit FMI)

Nehemiah* is the director of FMI’s ministry in Pakistan. He says society’s worst jobs are saved for believers. Christians are appointed to menial tasks like street sweeping, cleaning sewers, or brick-making.

“We call them ‘Three D’ jobs. Three D jobs mean dirty, difficult, and dangerous,” Nehemiah explains. When he and his cohorts surveyed the largest Christian community in Lahore, Pakistan, they uncovered another startling statistic: “Almost 40-45% of women, Christian women, are involved in prostitution because of the poverty.”

Education
The Pakistani Christians’ challenges don’t stop at employment.

“We need to help bolster and fortify the education system here. That’s one of the major areas where Christians are discriminated against,” Nehemiah shares.

Nehemiah and other FMI-supported pastors are adding classrooms to their church buildings so the children of Christ-followers and other religious minorities have a safe place to learn.

“It’s a long process, and it takes a generation for the fruit to be seen…but, there’s no other real way,” Allen adds.

FMI_Pakistan street cobblers

Under a makeshift canopy, a street vendor
cobbles shoes and sandals.
(Photo, caption credit FMI)

Anti-Blasphemy Laws
A Pakistani NGO recently reported that between 1987 and October 2014, 1,438 people have been accused of blasphemy under Pakistan’s infamous law. Religious minorities account for 50% of those cases, and 182 Christians have been targeted; the latest arrest, a 40-year-old Christian professor, was made yesterday in Lahore.

Overcoming darkness with light

With their financial needs met by FMI, pastors are sharing Christ in whatever ways they can, both in the pulpit and in the community. FMI also provides resources like bicycles for pastors’ transportation, materials for church site construction, and the ministry helps maintain two safe houses for persecuted believers.

FMI_Pakistani Christians

Children perform a song during a worship service in a congregation of about 70 people. The church site has brick walls and mats on the floors, but no roof.
(Photo, caption credit FMI)

“Even if they have a fairly sizeable congregation, [Pakistani Christians] don’t have the economic resources to fully support a pastor,” Allen explains.

“We come alongside and say, ‘We want to keep you in ministry, the people here need you.’ We provide monthly support for them, we give them resources.”

You can come alongside their efforts here.

Although the economy presents significant challenges for impoverished Pakistani Christians, Allen says it has the opposite effect on donations to FMI.

“The U.S. dollar will go very far here,” he explains. “So, when people want to help the pastors stay in ministry and do outreach, a gift of $100 goes very far.”

More stories from Pakistan here.