Pakistan was formed in 1947 as the Muslim section in the partition of British India. In 1971, East Pakistan left the nation to form the state of Bangladesh. For more than half its history, Pakistan has frequently been under the rule of the military that deposes elected governments at will.
Pakistan is an Islamic republic with a Sunni majority. Previous governments pursued Islamization of the legal system, taxation and public life as well as discrimination against all religious minorities. Despite its infringement of the constitution, Shariah law is increasingly applied -- even to Christians and Hindus -- especially in areas where Islamist groups have control or influence.
While there is a notable degree of religious freedom promised to minorities by law, non-Muslims and non-Sunnis must practice their faith cautiously and under varying degrees of threat from Islamists. Christians in Pakistan face severe opposition from militant Islamic groups, including imprisonment, torture and even death.
Many Pakistani Christians have been falsely accused under the Blasphemy Law, or Law 295.
Law 295a, blaspheming Islam, and Law 295b, blaspheming the Qur’an, are criminal offenses. Law 295c makes blaspheming Mohammed a crime punishable by death. Courtrooms packed with militants have often pressured judges into returning a guilty verdict or continuing trials indefinitely. Christians are regularly barred from jobs or face troubles from their employers and co-workers. Christian merchants are often harassed.
In November 2010, a Christian woman, Asia Bibi, was sentenced to death on charges of blasphemy. She is the first Pakistani woman ever to receive a death sentence for blasphemy. Her life has been threatened by many, with a Muslim cleric putting a price on her head. In early 2011, Salman Taseer, governor of Punjab province, and Shahbaz Bhatti, Minister of Minority Affairs, were assassinated, allegedly for speaking out against the controversial blasphemy law.
- Pray those imprisoned for their faith will know the presence of God and will grow in their faith.
- Pray that Christians in Pakistan will have a bold testimony to those around them.
- Pray for protection for Christians facing intimidation and threats.