Nearly 97% of some 207 million Pakistanis are Muslims. Christians make up only about 2% of the country’s population. Although corruption and extremism have recently diminished somewhat, religious minorities continue to be socially excluded, discriminated against and are often even victims of violent attacks. ACN has accompanied the Church of Pakistan for many years on its path to a better future. Also in 2019, many aid applications were approved, resulting in active project assistance.
After the election of Arif-ur-Rehman Alvi as the new president in 2018, the social conflicts in Pakistan have eased somewhat. Unfortunately, this cannot be said of the situation of religious minorities in the country. Christians are often socially disadvantaged and treated as second-class citizens.
The negative portrayal of non-Muslims in textbooks only exacerbates the problem. In this way, Muslims are already conditioned to the exclusion of people of different faiths from childhood on. One of the biggest problems, however, is the “anti-blasphemy law”, which provides for severe penalties, including death, for allegedly insulting Islam. Christians, in particular, are often indiscriminately accused of blasphemy by Muslims.
But there are also glimmers of hope. In 2019, for example, the sentence against the Christian woman Asia Bibi, accused of blasphemy, was overturned at the last moment after she spent ten years on death row – she was allowed to leave the country. However, other victims of the law are still in prison. The local Church also complains that young girls are forced to marry and convert to Islam through kidnappings. The faith of the Christians in Pakistan remains unshakeable. The churches are full and the Christian communities are developing dynamically. A growing role is played by the laity, who are active as catechists. ACN supports their training and promotes various pastoral programmes to strengthen the faith, e.g. in the youth ministry. The “Year of Youth” proclaimed by the Church in Pakistan got underway in November 2019. In addition, we support the local Church with construction projects and the purchase of vehicles, and also help priests through Mass stipends.