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'Ominous future' under Imran Khan for Christians in Pakistan

27 July 2018

Former cricket star Imran Khan has claimed victory in the 2018 Pakistan elections. What does that mean for our church family in Pakistan?

Imran Khan is the chairman of the newly emerged Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf. It’s a centrist party which, according to the party, aims to create a welfare state, where the state is responsible for education, health and employability of citizens.

This sounds like good news for Christians, who often struggle to access education, health care and dignified work because of the discrimination and attack they face from Islamic extremists.

£54 could provide vital emergency relief such as medicine and food to a persecuted Christian in Pakistan.

However, Khan has not positioned himself as a champion for minority groups and religious freedom. In fact, he seems keen to ensure that Pakistan remains a strongly Islamic republic. Hours after Khan’s victory was confirmed, he spoke to the nation saying his preferred form of government is ‘the Islamic State as established by the Prophet Mohammad in Medina’.

Before the election, a Pakistani Christian leader told Open Doors, “Many Christians fear Imran Khan as the country’s leader as he has said he wants to return to jirga, a traditional assembly of leaders that make decisions by consensus and according to the teachings of Pashtunwali – a series of non-written ethical codes which predate modern laws and which prove a dangerous mix in combination with Sharia, the strict Islamic law."

Khan has also spoken in support of Pakistan’s infamous blasphemy laws – he’s quoted as saying, “I know this law is an inconvenience for some people like that poor woman Asia Bibi. But it is a law that is complete and I support it.”

Asia Bibi is a Christian mother-of-five who was sentenced to death for blasphemy in 2010. She has been imprisoned and on death row ever since, a situation that is much more than ‘inconvenient’ for her and her family.

‘The future looks ominous’

None of this is good news for Christians, who make up a tiny minority in Pakistan, and already face discrimination and attack from Islamic extremists for their faith in Jesus.

An Open Doors local partner told us, “We prayed this government would not come in, but God had another plan. We see a new leader at the helm, who is rooted in the same old extremism that has tortured Christians for decades and the future looks ominous.

“We do prepare for violence and challenges in the months ahead. We need structural changes to the constitution to be heard better, and to be safeguarded, and for the playing field to be level, and that is not a priority for this government.

“However, God has allowed this to happen. It can only be for the benefit of the church. We accept this and we will walk in truth and dignity and we will when necessary challenge the status quo, but at all times we will remain faithful to our values as Christians.”

Another Open Doors partner says, "It has always been difficult. Previous government tip-toed around the Mullahs (Mulsim leaders), this government is dancing with them. Truth is no one took them on. We have to dance with Christ through this [government] and trust His direction.”

Stand with your church family in Pakistan

As our church family in Pakistan prepare for whatever may come under Imran Khan’s leadership, please stand with them in prayer and action.

An Open Doors partner says, “Our battle is not against flesh and blood but against the powers and principalities that drive this flesh and blood. We need wisdom and discernment in the days ahead and we are deeply thankful for the way you have prayed for us and stood by us in the journey.”

Please pray:

  • For wisdom, discernment and protection for our church family in Pakistan
  • That God will be at work in Imran Khan and his government, and soften their hearts towards Pakistan's minorities, including Christians
  • For freedom for Asia Bibi and others imprisoned for blasphemy
  • That God will continue to work through Open Doors partners and others to provide persecuted Christians with the support they need to keep going, in even in the face of discrimination and attack.

You can also provide our persecuted brothers and sisters with practical support. £54 could provide vital emergency relief such as medicine and food to a persecuted Christian in Pakistan.

Lydia, an Open Doors partner who is involved in women’s ministry in Pakistan, says, “It seems God’s heart is crying out for the marginalised and we are committed to seek them out from our midst, recognise ourselves as the least of these and serve one another as though we serve Christ Himself, be it through literacy, prison ministry, education, leadership development or advocacy. We are not budging.”

Our partner says, “We are thankful to God and to those who support us in love and giving throughout the world.”

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