Pakistan

World Watch ranking: 7
Map thumbnail
Leader
Interim Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar

How many Christians?
4.2 million (1.8%)

Main threats
  • Islamic oppression
  • Dictatorial paranoia

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How many Christians are there in Pakistan?

There are 4.2 million Christians in Muslim-majority Pakistan – which is only 1.8 per cent of the country’s population of about 234 million people.

How are Christians persecuted in Pakistan?

The devastating attack on the Christian community in Jaranwala in August 2023 was a sobering reminder of the hostile environment facing many believers in Pakistan. The attack on more than 20 churches and almost 100 homes was in response to two believers being accused of desecrating the Quran.

Pakistan’s notorious blasphemy laws are often used to target minority groups, but Christians are disproportionately affected – in fact, roughly a quarter of all blasphemy accusations target Christians.

Believers are targeted in other ways, too – both overtly and subtly. The number of Christian (and other religious minority) girls and women abducted, abused and forcefully converted to Islam is growing. For victims who return home, the shame of abduction and rape places a huge shadow over their lives within Pakistan’s honour-based culture. They live under the fear and real threat of being followed and abducted again. The persecutors are seldom held to account – indeed, often the courts support forcible conversion. If a girl or woman converts from Islam, her own family might decide to murder her as a so-called ‘honour killing’.

All Christians suffer from institutionalised discrimination, and occupations that are deemed low, dirty and degrading – such as working as a sewer cleaner or on a brick kiln – are reserved for Christians by the authorities. Many are referred to as ‘chura', a derogatory term meaning 'filthy'.

Historical churches have relative freedom for worship and other activities. However, they are heavily monitored and have been targeted for bomb attacks. Most of the country’s Christians live in Punjab Province, and so this is where most incidents of persecution are recorded.

Meet 'Rehena'

“We are a lower class because we are Christians.” rehena, a christian woman who works in poor conditions in a factory

What’s life like for Christians in Pakistan?

“We are a lower class because we are Christians,” says Rehena*. She works long hours in a factory under poor conditions – there are 600,000 Christian women in a similar position to Rehena. She adds, “We have no right to any privileges and have no right to dignity. It is an insult to Muslims to eat with us off the same plate. If we touch their plate, it becomes defiled.”

She can’t talk about her faith at work at all. “At work, it is dangerous to discuss my faith in Jesus in any way. We cannot even say the name of Christ. I remember one woman who used to work in the same factory where I am – she whispered the name of Jesus under her breath. Her floor manager heard her, and began to harass her. One day, he tried to touch her.” When she rejected his advances, he kicked her out of the factory. A few days later, she was accused of blasphemy.

The country’s blasphemy laws are often used this way – to settle scores, and to target members of minority religions. Even baseless accusations can severely endanger someone.

But Rehena is firm in her faith, despite what it costs her. “If I must choose between Jesus and a better life, the choice is not difficult,” she says. “Jesus is the only way. I have chosen already: Jesus, my Jesus. This is what I cling to.”

*Name changed for security reasons

How can I help Christians in the Persian Gulf?

Please keep praying for your brothers and sisters in Pakistan. Your prayers make an enormous difference to those following Jesus no matter the cost.

Open Doors is active in the Persian Gulf countries, including Pakistan, through The HOPE (Helping Others Pray and Encourage) Community.

please pray

Heavenly Father, comfort, heal and restore our brothers and sisters reeling from traumatic experiences, like those affected by the attacks in Jaranwala. Continue to remind Your children of Your unfailing love for them, as they live in a society that often treats them as second-class citizens. Bring an end to the false accusations levelled against Christians, and strip away the fear this brings to many believers. Raise up leaders into positions of authority who will work towards ensuring better treatment for our family in Pakistan. Amen. 

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