Tuesday, June 13, 2017

RLPB 410. Pakistan: Who Cares About Pakistani Christians?

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 410 | Wed 14 Jun 2017

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by Elizabeth Kendal

Many Pakistani Christians are 'untouchables' or choorahs -- so low on the social scale they are beneath the caste system. Despite their 'untouchablity' having its origins in Hindu India, the tradition continues in Pakistan. As choorahs, these Christians are condemned to a life of either street sweeping or sanitation work [youtube]. Indeed, whilst Christians comprise a mere 2.3 percent of Pakistanis, virtually all Pakistani street sweepers and sanitation workers are Christians. Whenever a city's sewerage lines are blocked, officials don't call in unionised plumbers with expensive machinery; rather they call up the 'untouchable' sanitation workers who must plunge into manholes and unblock the sewerage manually. Despite the fact that this routinely releases deadly poisonous gases, the workers are not provided any protection, presumably because as infidel choorahs, these Christians are deemed valueless and disposable.

On 1 June Christian sanitation worker Irfan Masih (unmarried, aged 28) was at a job in Umerkot City, Sindh Province, when a fellow worker, Yaqoob, lost consciousness in a sewer because of poisonous gas. Irfan jumped in to rescue him, but as Yaqoob was being lifted out the rope failed, causing Yaqoob to fall back into the manhole on top of Irfan, who then also lost consciousness.  A third worker, Shaukat, jumped in to help but also lost consciousness. At that point the other workers called the men's families who came to the rescue.

Irfan Masih's mother, Arshad Bibi
grieves the loss of her son (BBC)
The families raced their unconscious loved ones to the hospital only to have three doctors refuse to treat the both physically and ritually 'unclean' chooras. The families washed the men while a fourth doctor stepped in to help, but it was too late for Irfan. While the other two workers were raced to another hospital, Irfan was pronounced dead. This was not an isolated incident, for Christians -- especially choorahs -- are routinely refused medical treatment in Pakistan. Whilst it is shameful yet unsurprising that a virtually failed Islamic state would refuse aid to Christian choorahs, it is shameful and shocking that, as Morning Star News reports, some Christians will not touch them either.

The fact is, though, no amount of status will protect a Pakistani Christian from persecution. Indeed, intolerance and insecurity are escalating by the day as the state reaps the whirlwind (Hosea 8:7) of three-and-a-half decades of Saudi-funded 'Wahhabisation' and state sponsorship of regional terrorism. Today, Pakistan's Islamic fundamentalists are simply out of control -- they dictate to the state which stands powerless and paralysed before them, unable to change anything even if it wanted to. Anyone who agitates for reform is assassinated. Christians with means are fleeing in ever increasing numbers. Sadly, many never find the life of liberty and security they crave.

Family of Ijaz Masih, in Thailand (ICV)
A report to the British Parliament in February 2016 found that of some 11,500 Pakistanis seeking asylum in Thailand, the majority are Christian. Many are locked up in appalling conditions; all are struggling unimaginably. Compounding their troubles is the fact that, like persecuted Christian asylum seekers the world over, they are provided with Muslim translators whose only desire is to hinder and not help them. 

Pakistani Christian Ijaz Masih (35) fled Pakistan in 2013. He travelled to Thailand with his wife and three children to seek asylum on the grounds of religious persecution. World Watch Monitor reports that, on 26 May 2017, Ijaz Masih died of a heart attack in Thailand after being refused treatment. International Christian Voice (ICV) founder Peter Bhatti condemned the blatant disregard shown by Thai officials and the UNHCR (UN High Commission for Refugees).

So who cares about Pakistani Christians? We know that God cares and we should realise by now that, by and large, 'the world' does not. The Church -- local and global -- must step up as "God's human instruments" to imitate Christ in love and obedience and as a service to God who is Father to us all.


* fire up the local churches in Pakistan and the global Church in the world, so Christians will stand as one, imitating Christ, demonstrating sacrificial love and standing in courageous solidarity with Pakistan's suffering believers.

'For as many of you as were baptised into Christ have put on Christ.  There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.  And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise.' (Galatians 3:26b-29 ESV)

* come to the aid of Pakistani Christian asylum seekers stranded in Thailand and across South-east Asia.

* intervene in Pakistan so that what seems inevitable (victory for intolerant fundamentalist Islam) will not come to pass; may God send 'the rod of [his] anger' (Isaiah 10:5) against those who would shatter and scatter his precious Church.


Many Pakistani Christians are 'untouchables'. Viewed as valueless and disposable, they are  condemned to work as street sweepers and in sanitation, often in dangerous situations. On 1 June Christian untouchable Irfan Masih (28) died, having being denied medical care after a workplace accident. Not only untouchables are treated like this; medical care is routinely denied to Christians in Pakistan, no matter their status. As persecution and insecurity escalate, Christians flee in ever greater numbers. Unfortunately, most never find the liberty and security they crave. Many thousands of Pakistani Christians are struggling to survive in centres across SE Asia. On 26 May Pakistani Christian asylum seeker Ijaz Masih (35, married, father of 3) died of a heart attack in Thailand after being denied medical treatment. Pakistan and its Christians need our prayers.


Elizabeth Kendal is an international religious liberty analyst and advocate. She serves as Director of Advocacy at Canberra-based Christian Faith and Freedom (CFF), and is an Adjunct Research Fellow at the Arthur Jeffery Centre for the Study of Islam at Melbourne School of Theology.

She has authored two books: Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah Speaks to Christians Today (Deror Books, Melbourne, Australia, Dec 2012) which offers a Biblical response to persecution and existential threat; and, After Saturday Comes Sunday: Understanding the Christian Crisis in the Middle East (Wipf and Stock, Eugene, OR, USA, June 2016).

See www.ElizabethKendal.com