Challenges for discipling new believers in Pakistan
Believers from a Muslim background are in a unique and challenging situation. Islam, particularly under shari’a, has grave or deadly punishments for apostates. Yet increasing numbers of Muslims are coming to faith in Jesus, often through media such as literature, radio, TV as well as dreams and visions and the witness of Pakistani Christians. Some are ex-militants. Churches, comprised mostly of Hindu-background and lower caste believers, do not know how to integrate and disciple these people, and so the large majority of them revert to Islam, turn to atheism or retreat to private faith. Some networks of Muslim-background believers are emerging for mutual spiritual support and discipleship. Pray for such networks to spread and fellowships to form for these believers so that they do not easily fall away. Ask the Lord to raise up leaders for these believers, and for their protection. Pray that any such movement will develop solid disciples with hearts to reach other Muslims.
Pakistan lies at the very heart of the unevangelized world. Over 350 peoples and castes can be regarded as unevangelized. Many of these have no churches, no Christians, no missionaries and no witness. Pakistan is the world’s second-largest concentration of unengaged, unevangelized peoples and the world’s second largest Muslim population. Few countries, if any, present a greater challenge for missions. Pray for the calling of more intercessors, advocates and missionaries for these people in such hard places:
a) The Punjabi majority on the Indus plain. Few of these highly populous Muslim groups have been reached. There are some fellowships among them as well as growing numbers of secret believers.
b) The Pashtuns of the North-West Frontier with Afghanistan are famed as combative, clannish and fundamentalist, comprising the majority of the Taliban. They control the lucrative drug and weapon trades in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Over two million live in Karachi. There are only two known Pushtu-speaking fellowships, but a response to the gospel is beginning. A handful of expatriate workers and agencies are committed to ministry among them, but those who learn the language come under intense spiritual attack. Some claim the Pashtun heartland is one of the most spiritually oppressive places on earth.
c) The Seraiki-speaking peoples have thus far been largely ignored by Christian work, with very few Christian resources available to them. Largely rural, they number 14 million, divided among 200 peoples speaking Seraiki as either their primary or secondary language.
d) The Sindhi peoples are among the poorest and least-evangelized people groups in the world. There are only a couple hundred known believers from a Muslim background and no truly Sindhi congregation among these groups which number up to 25 million people. FEBA,TWR and GFA broadcast in Sindhi as well as other languages. WV runs a hospital that meets many health needs, especially for women. An International Sindhi Partnership links churches and agencies interested in the Sindhi. Signs of the Holy Spirit’s working among the Sindhi are becoming evident.
e) The Baloch and the Brahui. Some 75% of the world’s ten million Baloch live in Pakistan. They are notoriously difficult to reach – Balochistan is geographically inhospitable, poor and very hard to access for expatriates, but some Baloch are very responsive to the gospel. Over one million live and work in Karachi. Only a few hundred Baloch and Brahui believers are known globally with reports of increasing numbers coming to faith, but the vast majority of them remain untouched by the gospel.
f) The Mohajirs are Urdu-speaking peoples who are native to India. They are highly urbanized and make up nearly half of Karachi’s population. They are financially more prosperous than most groups and are quite accessible, yet there is only one fellowship and only one church-planting team trying to reach as many as 10 million Mohajirs.
g) The peoples of the far north. Over 27 smaller people groups live in the mountain valleys of Kashmir, Kohistan, Swat, Dir, Chitral, Gilgit and the Hunza. The Kalash are largely animist but are increasingly becoming Muslim. All the other peoples are Muslim – Sunni, Shi’a and Ismaili. Pray especially for the Burusha of the Hunza, the Tibetan-related Balti, the Khowari of Chitral, the Shina, the Kohistani and Turbvali as well as the numerous smaller groups. There are only a few Christians and a handful of fellowships among these peoples.
h) Karachi is a chaotic city with a huge population (double the official population figures), inter-ethnic conflicts, kidnappings, violent crimes and widespread drug addiction. Karachi has six peoples of over one million population (Pashtun, Sindhi, Baloch, Punjabi, Bengali and Urdu-speaking Mohajirs) and nine more over 100,000. Only three have a dedicated team of missionaries focused on reaching them. CMS and others have a ministry to some of the two million addicted to drugs or at risk. Karachi is the business and economic centre, the locus of ethnic interaction and an easier place for foreigners to work. As such, it is the strategic key to reaching and influencing Pakistan with the gospel.
i) Afghan refugees. Between 1-1.8 million immigrants remain in Pakistan’s north, most of whom are there to stay. Most are Dari- and Pushtu-speaking, but there are also many Uzbek, Tajik and other groups. Many are moving from refugee camps into the cities. For years, Christian groups have faithfully offered aid and assistance, often at great risk to themselves. As a result, there are a number of Afghan believers in Karachi and Islamabad. Pray for dedicated Christians, both foreign workers and nationals, to reach Afghans in Pakistan’s cities.
j) The Ahmadiyya are a missionary-minded Muslim sect, largely driven underground in Pakistan by persecution. Viewed as heretics by other Muslims, they are one of the most intensely persecuted religious groups in Pakistan. Few of the four million Ahmaddiya in Pakistan or the 10 million worldwide have ever come to Christ, but their sufferings are making them more open for the good news. Currently no groups are focused on reaching them.