Voice of the Persecuted (VOP) received reports from our Pakistani correspondent of numerous cases where poor Christians had been asked by Muslim charities to denounce Jesus and accept Islam in exchange for food packages during the Covid-19 crisis. It’s immoral that Pakistan’s religious minorities, often the most vulnerable in the society, are targeted for more abuse during a pandemic. The crisis has put them at an even greater risk of being discriminated against and persecuted solely for their faith.
In April, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) shared they were troubled by the reports of food aid being denied to religious minorities amid the spread of COVID-19 in Pakistan.
“In a recent address by Prime Minister Khan to the international community, he highlighted that the challenge facing governments in the developing world is to save people from dying of hunger while also trying to halt the spread of COVID-19. This is a monumental task laying before many countries. Prime Minister Khan’s government has the opportunity to lead the way but they must not leave religious minorities behind. Otherwise, they may add on top of it all one more crisis, created by religious discrimination and inter-communal strife”, added USCIRF Commissioner Johnnie Moore.
These actions are simply reprehensible,” stated USCIRF Commissioner Anurima Bhargava. “As COVID-19 continues to spread, vulnerable communities within Pakistan are fighting hunger and to keep their families safe and healthy. Food aid must not be denied because of one’s faith. We urge the Pakistani government to ensure that food aid from distributing organizations is shared equally with Hindus, Christians, and other religions minorities.”
Pakistan’s economic and social structure is ill-equipped to deal with a pandemic like Covid-19. While the country was in strict lockdown people were unable to work with many Christian laborers unable to feed their families. With little choice, they sought help from charities who misused the situation to forcefully convert people to Islam. That’s when Voice of the Persecuted stepped in to help over 20 families with basic food necessities. We were able to identify impoverished families in Lahore and set out to cover them with food packages during the lockdown.
Our Pakistani representative, Akash Mushtaq, delivered food parcels and spoke with people on the ground. Akash asked Rafiq Masih how he has managed during the coronavirus lockdown.
“We have been very helpless. We have asked for help from government assisted charities and they have turned us down. Many Muslim charities have denied us food because of our Christian names. When they read Masih as our surname, they deny food.”
Many Christians are honored in writing Masih meaning “Christ” in English as their surname.
Shamim, a mother of five, told Voice of the Persecuted,
“I work as a maid in different households and I was able to earn about $200 a month. It was not enough for a family of seven people but we are thankful for whatever we have. Since the lockdown, I have not been allowed to enter homes and I cannot earn. My children are asking for food and clothes and I cannot provide for them. Many Muslims come to offer food if we convert to Islam. We are hungry but not faithless.”
A special thanks to our Pakistani representative for dedication, hard work and a loving heart. A huge thank you to those who have been supporting our work and making these missions possible. Your caring hearts mean more than you will ever know. They give thanks to God for answering their prayers through your gifts.
To contain the virus, Pakistan has decided to reimpose a partial lockdown and sealed off high risk residential areas across the country. The Punjab government decided to impose a ‘smart lockdown’ on seven major cities – Lahore, Rawalpindi, Faisalabad, Multan, Gujranwala, Sialkot, and Gujrat – to cut down the sharp increase in infections. In Lahore, the partial lockdown started Tuesday at midnight with the other six cities went under restriction on Wednesday.
Voice of the Persecuted is asking for your help to distribute food packages to more needy Pakistani Christian families in the newly restricted lockdown areas. Together with your generous help, we can reach the goal to alleviate their suffering. In darkness and desperation, let us serve in love, with open arms and giving hands to provide light and hope. Please consider partnering with us to continue aiding our suffering brothers and sisters in Pakistan during this time of great need.
Everyday, we thank God that He is working through you to care for His children and further His Kingdom! As you greatly bless others, may God continue to bless you. Thank you so much for your support. We couldn’t do it without you!
Please keep the people of Pakistan in your prayers, particularly Pakistani Christians as they continue to battle the crisis while searching for basic food supplies to care for their families.