Dear prayer partners,

On Friday 16 October, thousands of protesters gathered in the central Pakistan city of Gujranwala in an anti-government demonstration. The protest was organised by a new alliance of 11 opposition political parties that declared that this was the “beginning of the end” for Prime Minister Imran Khan. Three-time former prime minister, Nawaz Sharif – in his first public speech since his release on bail to go to the UK for medical treatment – accused the army of toppling his government and establishing Prime Minister Imran Khan in the 2018 elections. About 500 opposition figures and activists were arrested the night before the planned protest. These protests come as the government struggles to cope with economic decline, poor infrastructure, unemployment, and inflation rates which have driven up food prices, leading to discontentment among Pakistanis.

Pakistan currently faces numerous crises, both within its borders, and in the larger regional context. In the southwestern province of Balochistan, unidentified gunmen attacked a convoy of employees of the state-owned Oil and Gas Development Corporation with rocket launchers and heavy weapons on Thursday 15 October, killing at least 14, and leaving many others wounded. Security forces launched a search operation in the area; however, no group has claimed responsibility for the attack. Further afield, the Armenian prime minister accused Pakistani troops of fighting alongside Azerbaijan in the ongoing conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the contested Nagorno Karabakh region. However, Pakistan has denied any involvement. The ongoing tensions with India over the disputed Kashmir region also saw three Indian soldiers killed in cross-border shelling by Pakistan, in early October.

Pakistan is home to about 219 million people of which 98.6% profess Islam as the “one true religion” (the second-most-populous Muslim nation after Indonesia), while Christians make up only 0.9% of the population. Pakistan’s notorious blasphemy laws – meant to protect Islamic authority and to keep Islam as the state religion – have led to many extrajudicial killings and riots. Critics complain that Pakistan’s blasphemy laws are “overwhelmingly being used to persecute religious minorities and settle personal vendettas.” As a result, many Christians are hesitant to express their faith freely as it can be misinterpreted as blasphemy, leading to possible imprisonment and even death. Even though Christians are in the minority, there are opportunities during these challenging times for believers to demonstrate ‘counter-cultural’ attitudes and Christ-like behaviour, which can be a powerful witness to the larger society.

Please join with us in praying for Pakistan.

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:5)