Persecution in Pakistan
Shahzad and Shama were locked in the offices of the kiln where they worked when they heard the call go out over the loudspeaker of a mosque: a Christian woman had desecrated the Quran.
Shama had burnt an amulet containing some paper. She had no idea what the paper said; she was completely illiterate. But some of her neighbours had found the remains, containing portions of the Quran, and accused her of blasphemy. Now Shama and her husband were trapped and a terrifying mob was gathering, armed with clubs and hatchets.
When the protestors couldn't get through the door, they broke through the roof, dragging the couple out and beating them until they were unconscious. Finally, the protestors covered their bodies in petrol and threw them into the kiln.
The abuses of Pakistan's blasphemy laws are some of the starkest examples of persecution in Pakistan. They have been devastating for minorities, including Christians, who must always act with caution in case an allegation of blasphemy is raised to settle a personal score. This year, a blasphemy case was brought against a boy for simply responding to a cartoon about Islam on social media.
Society in general is becoming increasingly Islamic in Pakistan, and Christians make up just 2 per cent of the population. There are reports of Christians being treated aggressively simply for wearing a cross, and cars with Christian stickers are more likely to be stopped by the police.
But this type of harassment is mild in comparison with the experience of hundreds of Christian women and girls - an estimated 700 are abducted every year in Pakistan. They are often raped and forced to marry Muslim men, which also involves forced conversion. If their families complain, they are accused of harassing the 'voluntarily converted' girl and her new family.
Extremist militants such as the Taliban and the Islamic State specifically target Christians; the Easter 2016 bombing in Lahore by the Taliban was specifically aimed at Christians, and killed dozens of people.
A new law allows the government to monitor and close down NGOs, and any church not registered as an NGO will be considered illegal. Church activities are regularly watched - although security is provided to many churches by the authorities, these security personnel report back on what they observe. There are even some reports of these guards attacking church leaders. Each Bible printed by the Bible Society of Pakistan has a serial number so that it can be traced and tracked.
But your support and prayers make a real difference to the lives of our brothers and sisters facing extreme persecution in Pakistan. One believer, whose wife has received trauma care through a local partner, says: "My wife Nuzhat had 22 wounds in her body after our church was attacked by extremists. It's amazing to see how she has grown through the singing and music therapy. The road to recovery is long but I have my wife back."