Pakistan was not founded as a Muslim country. But against the wishes of its founder, it became one in 1956. General Zia-ul Haq, who ruled from 1980 to 1986, aligned with extreme Muslims and introduced the world’s most infamous blasphemy laws, enabling Christian persecution in Pakistan to take root; merely accusing a believer of slandering the Prophet Muhammed brings automatic jail time.
Persecuted Pakistani Christians form a quarter of the thousands accused—and one can languish for years in prison without action. Subsequent governments in Pakistan have tried to relax the regulations, but the culture has continued to Islamicize; it is estimated that extremist mullahs control over 20% of the population with their violent ideologies. While religious conversion is technically allowed, in practice Islamist mobs are continually mobilized to control Christians and keep them on the defensive.
Christian persecution in Pakistan includes large-scale kidnappings of young believers who are thrust into forced marriages, dreadful violence directed at churches on feast days, and societal discrimination which keeps our brothers & sisters poor and vulnerable. Said one pastor in Lahore, “The Mullah spreads a lie, there is violence from the mob, and no justice from the state—this is no longer a country hospitable to the exercise of the Christian faith.”
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif
“No where else in the world are persecuted Christians in more danger of violence from mobs, but the violence is always well-organized and strategic—we are watched all the time, and the moment we spread the Word with power we are in trouble, and we pay with our blood. But that makes the Gospel spread all the more.”
A MINISTER AND PERSECUTED CHRISTIAN IN PAKISTAN
History of Christianity in Pakistan
There is evidence that one of the twelve disciples, Thomas Didymus, visited Pakistan between AD 52-72. Jesuits arrived in the time of the Mughal ruler Akbar in the 16th century to make some converts among the elite class. In the 19th century, Catholic and Protestant missionaries found a following in the land, especially among lower-caste Hindus.
Today, Christian persecution in Pakistan is evident in the form of job discrimination; over 80% of Pakistani believers are from these lower echelons of society and often work undesirable jobs. Yet Christian denominations were prominent in establishing schools and hospitals, and many of the elite today—even the Muslim ruling class—have had a Christian education.
According to the US Department of State's Report on International Religious Freedom, minority populations may often be underrepresented; Christians may actually number as high as five million. Roughly half are Protestant and half are Catholic. A sizable community of believers—those who converted from Islam—must keep out of view for their own safety.