A sobering article was released today from Lubna Thomas Benjamin on the emerging exodus of Christians from Pakistan. After many tiresome years of discrimination and persecution, some Christians have had enough and are leaving behind the homeland that they love.
One young man's story featured in the article, while his own, is likely not all that different from many other Christians in the country. It tells a tale of social ostracism, discrimination, violence, and eventually, exodus:
A Christian young man belonging to the city of Bahawalpur, Punjab, is now in the UK.
On condition of anonymity, he shared with me his reason for leaving Pakistan: "I was running my photography business earning good amount of money, owned a home too, but something went wrong all of a sudden when I saw a huge decline in my business."
He told me that an old friend of his in the police department informed him that there were some people living around him who didn't like him as they were jealous that how being Christians, his family was well-to-do and he himself had a sound business.
"I was attacked brutally once by the armed men, I had bruises all over my body. After few days, my older brother was also beaten severely," he explained.
He also depicted the scene when the armed men surrounded his home with the whole of his family inside. After that day, his family started living in another part of Pakistan. Even then, they faced many troubles and eventually they decided to leave Pakistan.
Pakistani Christians have been under attack for years, and recent days seem to suggest the pressures on the Christian community are increasing. In September of last year, 85 people were killed and more than 100 injured when two suicide bombers walked into the compound of the historic All Saints Church in Peshawar and blew themselves up at the conclusion of Sunday worship services. And Pakistani Christian, Asia Bibi, has been on death for over four years after having been found guilty of blasphemy - though her true crime, many believe, was her Christian faith.
Sadder still is the reality that the exodus of Christians from Pakistan is not unique. As Baroness Warsi of the UK has said, "A mass exodus is taking place, on a biblical scale" of Christians from across the Middle East. In many places, Christians are under constant threat of intimidation, attack, even murder, and reports suggest that Syria, Iraq, and Egypt, among others, have seen great declines in the Christian community in recent months.
The great migration of Christians from these regions is a simultaneous blessing for the individuals involved, yet a great tragedy for the country and remaining communities. They are a blessing in that families who have been under the constant psychological and social pressures living under persecution are having the opportunity to start again. And while Ms. Thomas Benjamin's article highlights the difficult struggles of Christians to start new lives elsewhere, at least it is not under the constant threat of persecution and suffering for their faith.
The curse, on the other hand, is that, with the departure of Christians from these regions, the Christian witness to Christ's gospel of love and peace is being removed from some of the darkest, most desperate regions that need this witness the most. One can hardly find fault for any Christian seeking to escape persecution, but as Christian witness is removed from these regions, it gives rise to extremism, greater abuses of human rights, and heightened security challenges.
As The St. Charles Institute sees it, there is a better way forward and it's quite simple: stop the hate. If the hate, injustice, and violent persecution behind the exodus of Christians from these regions stops altogether, Pakistani Christians and those throughout the Muslim world could go about their lives in peace and set about building their country alongside their Muslim neighbors. Governments, social institutions, and houses of faith everywhere must make this a primary goal.
Here in the progressive enlightened age of the 21st century, no man, woman, boy or girl should be forced to choose between peace, stability and security and their faith. Yet the persecution continues, and it largely goes unnoticed by both Church and society in the West.
Please join The Institute in prayer for Christians in Pakistan suffering for their faith, and help us spread the word to anyone willing to listen.
We must not be silent. Our brothers and sisters in Pakistan, and across the Muslim world, deserve our voice.