Persecuted in Pakistan
It is easy for comfortable Christians in the USA to forget the hardships of those who are relentlessly persecuted for their faith around the world. While we enjoy historic religious freedoms enshrined in our constitution, Christians in predominantly Muslim countries often experience exactly the opposite: prejudice and persecution which is practiced daily and supported by the country’s laws, police, and judiciary system.
Human rights organizations work hard to raise awareness and minister to those whose religious freedoms are attacked, but too often their work is swamped by the pressures of politics, international immigration regulations, government bureaucracy, and indifference among media and communications experts. The work of helping refugees, feeding the hungry, housing the homeless, and seeking asylum for the genuinely persecuted falls to non-governmental agencies, local start-ups, and generous and compassionate individuals.
Face to Face with the Reality of Persecuted Christians
One such generous and compassionate individual is Casey Chalk — a young, newly-married American, Casey found himself with his young family, stationed for work in Bangkok, Thailand. Adapting to the exciting culture of Southeast Asia was one of the challenges — including developing a taste for spicy food. One of the other challenges was coming face to face with the reality of Christians from Pakistan who, persecuted by their Muslim neighbors, had fled to Thailand in hopes of gaining refugee status in order to find safety in the West.
In his book The Persecuted — True Stories of Courageous Christians Living Their Faith in Muslim Lands, Chalk details his friendships with two families who endured mindless assaults by Muslims in Pakistan. Pressured by their neighbors to convert to Islam, the determined Christians refused despite threats to their jobs, their children, and their lives. Before fleeing to Thailand they were beaten, their young female family members were kidnapped, forced to convert to Islam, and were married off to Muslim men. When they reported the attacks to the police they were usually fobbed off with excuses, told to simply convert to Islam so their troubles would end, or were ignored and turned away.
Once they made it to Thailand they joined thousands of other refugees and were caught up in joblessness, poverty, and the soul-destroying battle with bureaucracy. There were endless forms to be filled in, interviews and arrests for being illegal immigrants, and incarceration in Bangkok’s notorious IDC (Immigration Detention Center). The whole family, including a teenage girl and eight-year-old boy, lived in the squalid conditions in the IDC for years while waiting for their paperwork to be processed.
The Cost of Discipleship
Chalk’s account of two particular families puts a human face on the huge anonymous problem of international immigration. The United Nations agencies supposedly in charge of the problem are desperately underfunded and understaffed. The problems are too vast for church agencies and charities to solve, and the problems are exacerbated by false claimants “economic migrants” — people who are not persecuted, but are only looking for a better lifestyle.
Chalk provides excellent historical and political context to help understand the problems, but he also admits that there is little that can be done as a global population shifts and moves, as borders become more porous, and each country attempts to deal with the situation putting their needs before those of the immigrants.
As a Catholic Christian, Chalk sees the problem through the lens of his Christian faith. The immigrants are our brothers and sisters. The Christians enduring persecution for their faith stand in the company of Christians for the last two thousand years who have been marginalized, scapegoated, pressured, and persecuted even unto death.
Chalk’s account is a wake-up call for all sleepy Christians in the West. The call is to be aware of the cost of discipleship — to be alert to the attacks on the faith in our own land and to be prepared to stand up for the faith as courageously as our brothers and sisters in lands dominated by radical Islam.
Dwight Longenecker’s latest book is Beheading Hydra — A Radical Plan for Christians in an Atheistic Age. Read his blog, browse his books and be in touch at dwightlongenecker.com.