Drops of Hope
Pakistan is always high on Open Doors’ annual World Watch List. There’s a lot of violence, but what’s affecting the Church even more is ‘the squeeze factor.’ In other words, the every day pressure on Christians. Even when you have not been kidnapped, attacked, forcibly converted, victim of a terrorist attack or put in jail for allegedly blaspheming Islam, there’s always the threat. Despite this, Christians squeeze drops of hope from the Bible, from their brothers and sisters in faith, and every other source they can find.
Here are seven examples of Christians persevering in faith.
LEARNING HOW TO WRITE EVEN WHEN SOCIETY DOESN’T ALLOW YOU TO.
Below we see Aroona*. Aroona did not go to a traditional school until she was 16. She dropped out of school when she was six because her mother needed her to help take care of the baby while she cleaned homes to bring in an income. Aroona’s father was a sweeper in the municipal body of the city and addicted to home-brewed alcohol which gave him liver sclerosis. Aroona is one example of the millions of Pakistani Christians who do not have a chance to educate and develop themselves. Through Open Doors’ partner network of churches (called ALIVE), we were able to send her to school. Now she teaches women like herself how to read and write.
“The day I learned to read was the best day of my life. When I teach my students to read I feel like I have added colors to God’s painting before He comes back. I can tell them about Jesus and show them the stories in the Bible. There are all kinds of myths about Jesus. If we cannot read, we cannot tell the difference between myth and truth.”
QUIET FELLOWSHIP UNDER THE THREAT OF SUICIDE BOMBERS
Christians had been warned by ISIS, Taliban and other terrorists that they would suffer during Easter 2017. Despite the risks, they met for a quiet time of worship. “The candles were symbols of the light Jesus shed on our lives, and we said sorry to Him for things we needed to and thanked Him for everything,” said one participant, a student of ALIVE’s Bible College.
But nobody lit their candles. Then a 6-year-old girl went around the room with her own candle and lit everyone else’s. Her smile was brighter than all those candles. “I asked her why the candles needed to be lit,” says a Christian woman who visited the Easter vigil.
“Her answer filled me with joy. She said, ‘Because the candles remind us that even in the darkness of the tomb, there was the hope of Jesus’s promise. When Jesus makes a promise it is like a candle given to us when the lights go out. It is a promise that the lights will come back on again.”
That Good Friday, the authorities uncovered a plot and took into custody a group of terrorists who were ready to carry out Easter suicide bombings. The fear is real and tangible for Christians in Pakistan. “But our faith is real too,” said a mother who brought her children as well. “When I looked around me and I saw all the children, I was delighted that we have them to learn from. Their eyes are so sleepy, yet the eyes of their faith are open so wide.”
HOLDING FAST TO GOD’S WORD DESPITE INDOCTRINATION
The following photo is of a Christian in Pakistan at a discipleship course holding onto his Bible. This picture is symbolic of many Christians across Pakistan and her neighboring countries where Christians hold firmly to the Word of God with their lives, even when they do not have a physical copy of their own. “The greatest tragedy is when people say they are Christians but they don’t know Christ,” says an ALIVE Bible school teacher. “Millions of Christians are brainwashed everyday with Quranic texts, but they never receive any Biblical education. And then it’s very tempting to become a Muslim because you hope you will lead a better life. That’s why it’s so important to teach our brothers and sisters the Bible and how to hold fast to God’s Word.”
AN ENCOURAGEMENT IN TIMES OF UNCERTAINTY
With high security in churches across Pakistan under the fear of ISIS and other terror organizations promising to hurt Christians, children have demonstrated both faith and fear. Oftentimes it is the parents who help turn their fear into faith. They bring their children to church despite the risks. This father holds his son close and whispers words of confirmation and encouragement in the young boy’s ear.
A BRIEF REST WHEN THE WORLD IS IN TURMOIL
Nobody valued times of rest, prayer and quiet reflection more than Jesus did. Our ALIVE partner organizes annual retreats for pastors, church leaders and their spouses. Below, a pastor’s wife spends time quietly on her own. She says, “Sometimes I feel I have to hold it all together so that when my husband comes home he does not have to experience more stress at home. He has to deal with forced conversions, abductions of girls from our church, visits from and to the police and a myriad of other issues like printing of Bibles and the presence of western cults who really muddy the waters for Christians in Pakistan. I get tired. Sometimes I just want to take my children and my husband and walk through a closet, like the one in CS Lewis’ Narnia… then I remember I can do that through the Bible and I feel God’s peace flood me and enable me.”
FEET WASHING WHEN IT’S TOO DANGEROUS TO GO HOME
A woman who was unable to travel back to her home town for the Easter break is served by the Priest at the ALIVE BIBLE COLLEGE as he washes her feet following the example of Christ. The lady belongs to the town of Youhnannabad and was unable to go home due to the tensions and threats against Christians in that area. She, alongside other ALIVE friends and staff, has been involved in ministry to the Christians of Youhannabad for many years.
SHARING THE WORD WITH OTHER SLAVES
Modern day slavery is a massive problem in countries like Pakistan. Many Christians are bound to the people they work for. This man and his family, whose feet we see pictured below as he brings materials for brick making, have worked as brick makers for two generations, and they doubt there is any way out of this job.
“There are those among these isolated persecuted Christians who have memorized the scriptures,” says an ALIVE worker involved in outreach to brick kiln workers.
“They teach it to those around them on the brick making fields as they are not able to go to church or attend gatherings, which are seen as a threat to their employers. The work is hard and the Christians are isolated. Pray for those who work with Christians in brick kilns, for literacy and Bible teaching teams and for those involved in advocacy work to speak out. Let’s pray for drops of hope and justice for those who have been abused for generations.”