Christians in Pakistan

Attacks against the Christians are not uncommon in Pakistan. Some of these have been related to Pakistan’s controversial blasphemy laws, while others appear to have a political motive. In recent years the assassination of two high-profile Christian politicians also put the plight of this minority in the spotlight.

After Hindus, Christians are Pakistan’s second-largest minority group representing about 1.6% of the country’s overwhelmingly Muslim population.

Large populations are in the southern metropolis of Karachi, and there are countless Christian villages in Pakistan’s heartland of Punjab, in Lahore, the city of Faisalabad. In the deeply conservative north-western province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province there are, according to one lawmaker, 200,000 Christians, of whom 70,000 live in the city of Peshawar.

The majority of Pakistan’s Christians are descended from people who converted from Hinduism centuries ago under the British Raj. Most of those converts had been low-caste Hindus, kept at the lowest rung of society by virtue of their birth and would have converted to escape the fate destined for them within the caste system.

Pre-partition Pakistan was a much more diverse place and levels of tolerance have declined as Pakistani society has been increasingly Islamicised and more homogenous.

Pre-partition Christians could count themselves among minorities that made up 15% of the population. Now minorities fall short of 4% of the country. And with the introduction of Islamist militancy, their situation is that much more urgent.

Some of the violence against Christians is directly related to the American-led war in Afghanistan, so has an expressly political motive. Pakistan’s Christian and Hindu minorities evoke public sympathy and are not tools of a larger sectarian and ideological battle. They look like part of a militant plan to send a message to the West or embarrass Nawaz Sharif when he heads in that direction.

As Christians get caught in the political and ideological struggles of this nation, pray for the church to be a witness of love towards its enemies and reconciliation in this broken nation. This is more than an ideological battle, it is a struggle for the soul of this nation and calls for urgent and fervent prayer.

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