The Cost of Following Christ

The Cost of Following Christ

from the May 02, 2016 eNews issue

by Carol Loeffler, Executive Producer, Steel on Steel Radio Program

(Image: Pakistan Christian News)

(Image: Pakistan Christian News)

But whatever things were assets to me, these I now consider a loss for the sake of the Messiah. What is more, I continue to consider all these things to be a loss for the sake of what is far more valuable, knowing the Messiah Jesus, my Lord. It is because of him that I have experienced the loss of all those things. Indeed, I consider them rubbish in order to gain the Messiah

Philippians 3:7–8, (ISV)

[Editor’s note: In his book, The Cost of Discipleship, Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, “Where will the call to discipleship lead those who follow it? What decisions and painful separations will it entail? We must take this question to him who alone knows the answer. Only Jesus Christ, who bids us follow him, knows where the path will lead. But we know that it will be a path full of mercy beyond measure. Discipleship is joy.” This is one disciple’s story.]

Easter Sunday, 2016, saw yet another bombing targeting Christians celebrating the religious holiday with their families at an amusement part in Lahore, Pakistan. The bombing, which took the lives of 73 people and injured over 300 including women and children, is the most recent in a string of savage attacks by the Jamaat-ul-Ahrar faction of the Pakistani Taliban. A similar attack in front of a church in the spring of 2015 killed 15 and wounded 70.

Being a Christian in Pakistan is fraught with peril. Scarcely a week passes without Muslim mob violence against Christians, who are routinely accused of violating Pakistan’s Blasphemy Law 295-C, which carries the death penalty if successfully prosecuted. Many times mobs do not wait for the law to be enforced and take matters into their own hands. Families have been beaten and tortured, burned to death in a brick kiln, run over by cars, kidnapped and raped.

Just this month a 15-year-old boy was doused with gasoline and set afire simply for answering, “Yes,” to the question, “Are you a Christian?” He did not survive.

In the midst of the persecution threats, Christian pastors, priests, and civil rights advocates raise their voices to decry the horrendous treatment of their people, only to find themselves targets of angry Muslim mobs.

One such pastor is the subject of this article. We will call him Pastor X to protect his identity as he is still in a precarious situation.

Pastor X is a young man in his 30s, married with three children. As a pastor in Lahore, he became an outspoken advocate for Christians targeted by Muslim violence and blasphemy accusations. While attempting to help one accused Christian man (who coincidentally had the same common first name), radical Muslims believed it was Pastor X who was guilty of blasphemy. As death threats became more intense, he sought refuge with various relatives. Things grew worse when he realized he has placed his extended family in danger by staying with them.

Finally, in March 2014, a Dominican Catholic priest arranged for Pastor X and his family to leave the country to seek asylum in Bangkok, Thailand. However, this turned out to be fraught with problems as well.

The situation in Bangkok is very dangerous for Pakistani Christian refugees. Thai police routinely round up these refugees despite their registration with the United Nations High Council for Refugees(UNHCR). The Thai government does not honor asylum requests and obtaining official U.N. refugee status takes years to complete, which keeps them trapped in Thailand, unable to return home with nowhere to go.

While in hiding, Pakistani Christians are routinely harassed and arrested by police. Those who can pay bail are often released and then rearrested months later. Those who cannot pay bail are sent to the Immigration Detention Center (IDC), where inhumane conditions have been well documented by the BBC and other journalists.

Immigration Detention Center

Immigration Detention Center

It is under these stressful circumstances Pastor X has lived. Lacking official visas and work permits, he is unable to work, and is forced to rely on donations from a few churches and individuals abroad. Until recently, their plight was largely unknown to the world, as food and rent money was difficult to come by. Some nights they went hungry.

In June 2015 while Pastor X went out to buy food, his wife and children were arrested by Thai police and taken to a holding cell. Fortunately, he was able to borrow money to bail them out.

Efforts to obtain legal status in Thailand have been only temporarily successful, lasting only three months. During this time, Pastor X regularly visited detainees in the IDC taking them food to supplement the meager rations supplied by the Thai government. He and other refugees stayed up nights cooking meals, which they delivered during visiting hours in the morning.

At the IDC some 700–900 Pakistani Christian men, women and children are all packed in together. They must take turns sleeping because there is not enough room for everyone to lie down at once. Several people have died in this condition.

By Christmas 2015, Pastor X’s temporary visas had expired and the promise of extended visas never materialized due to corruption in the legal system. Christmas week, Thai police once again raided Pastor X’s apartment building and arrested him. He spent Christmas Day in a holding cell while his wife and children lived in panic they would not be able to keep him from being sent to the IDC and on to the notorious prison system.

Pastor X was finally released Christmas night but then went into hiding once again to avoid the constant threat of being rearrested.

There are an estimated 11,000 Pakistani Christians hiding in Thailand’s legal limbo in daily fear of being arrested, unable to return to their home country and unable to travel or obtain refuge.

Pastor X is but one story among all of these. It will be October 2017 before the UNHCR is scheduled to hear his case to decide whether he will obtain refugee status. In the meanwhile, the confines of his apartment are the only safe place.

There is a church in Idaho that is willing to sponsor Pastor X into the United States if it is able to raise the money to support his family for a year. If you would like to be a part of this effort, or if you know a church that is willing to pledge a monthly amount, you can do so by going to Steel on Steel and clicking on the red “Pastor X” button. This will take you to the church donation page where you can designate your tax-deductible donation for Pastor X.

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– FROM: KHouse.Org

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