COVID-19 cases continue to rise globally, leaving persecuted Christians at an even higher risk, as seen in unfolding events in Pakistan.
Countries where the reins of religious freedom are gripped tightly within the hands of the governing powers often look less than kindly on those who claim Christianity. Oppressive governments in these countries have committed atrocities such as shunning, imprisonment, beatings and killings against men and women of the Christian faith within their borders – or in Pakistan's case, starvation and biological terrorism.
Open Door's World Watch List currently ranks Pakistan as the fifth highest in persecution of Christian citizens – and cites "Islamic oppression" as the major source of that persecution. Now, according to International Christian Concern (ICC), the pandemic is presenting the Pakistani Christian community a new low in persecution and discrimination.
Since the country's independence in 1947, the country has been an official Muslim nation, complicating the lives of its Christian citizens. Pakistani Christians are continually suffering at the hands of institutionalized discrimination. According to ICC, authorities save degrading and dirty occupations for those who claim Christ, and as a result many are desperately poor or even victims of bonded labor.
A few middle-class Christians do exist within the Pakistani nation, but the narrative for the country's Bible-believing citizens is often that of financial destitution and social persecution.
Making financial matters more desperate, the country has been on lockdown since March 31, leaving many of the poor and vulnerable cut off from any form of income that kept them just above starvation.
Even worse, these desperate families are being excluded from any form of aid, due to their faith. In the Sandha Kalan village, for example, more than 100 Christian families were blocked from the distribution of food aid. The aid, collected by a village management committee and mostly consisting of food staples, was reportedly designed to be distributed among all needy families within the community. However, when the goods were distributed, the local mosque cleric did not allow a single Christian to receive food. ID cards are checked at every distribution site – and if an individual identifies as a believer, they're sent away empty handed back to their starving family.
In addition, Christian workers are treated less than human by their superiors, as sanitation workers are denied safety equipment provided to their Muslim co-workers. Garbage men and sewer workers, which consist of 80-90% Christian employees, are forced to work during the lockdown with little to no safety equipment, leaving them exposed to the virus. Yet, despite COVID-19 fears, the employees must continue to work in order to feed their families. Some families have had to cut their meals down to once a day, due to limited resources.
However, this isn't how the Pakistani believers' stories end. International Christian Concern and other organizations are reaching out, providing a lifeline of direct food aid to persecuted Christian communities, including sanitation workers and those who have been denied aid due to their faith.