Translating Words, Interpreting Events

From Riches to Rags: Christian Experiences in Pakistan

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Editor’s note: The following account was written for RaymondIbrahim.com by an American teacher in the Muslim world.  It is reminiscent of other accounts in Pakistan. For instance, in March 2010, Rasheed Masih, described as a “devoted Christian,” was butchered by Muslim men “with multiple axe blows for refusing to convert to Islam.” Earlier, the “six men had threatened to kill 36-year-old Rasheed Masih unless he converted to Islam when they grew resentful of his potato business succeeding beyond their own.”  According to a pastor who knew Rasheed, “As the Christian family [of Rasheed] strengthened in business and earned more, the Muslim men began to harbor business resentment, as Muslims are not used to seeing Christians more respected and richer than them.”  Eventually he was lured to one of their farm houses, where he was slaughtered by repeated axe blows.  The autopsy revealed he had 24 wounds.

As with Sarah, who I wrote about last week, I met Paul at the Church I attend while in Bangkok. After a friendly introduction where I learned of his asylum seeking status, I asked him:

“Why did you flee Pakistan?  Did you commit apostasy? Blasphemy? Proselytization?”

Paul smiled and answered, “No, No, and No! I had to flee Pakistan with my family because I was a successful Christian businessman.”

Not expecting that answer, I asked Paul if he could elaborate, to which he agreed.  We walked to a nearby park and he began his story with his British great-great-grandmother, who for some reason unknown to him, was living in a remote part of Pakistan in the early 20th century (which was then part of the British Empire).  One day, she was running from an angry Muslim mob who wanted to kill her.  She found refuge in the home of a Muslim man, who in exchange for his protection, she was forced to marry as a second wife and convert to Islam.  A few years later, after giving birth to their second child, her husband died.

Without her husband’s protection, she knew that the jealous first wife, with the help of the villagers who still wanted her dead, would eventually kill her and her children.  While everyone was in mourning and paying little attention to her, she fled with her two boys to the Province of Punjab, where she lived among Christians for the rest of her life.  There, she raised her sons as Christians and taught them the values of hard work and individual responsibility.

As the generations passed, some of her descendants were very successful, including Paul.  Through years of hard work, Paul transformed a $250 investment into three very profitable photo-shop stores.  He lived in a beautiful villa with his parents, two brothers, and sister, and purchased a second home for himself, his wife and two daughters.  He also donated to charity organizations that helped poor children, regardless of religion, get an education.  He was proud to be known as the most successful Christian businessman in the city.

Being a wealthy Christian in a Muslim country, Paul also had to make financial contributions to local politicians (protection money) and help them during elections by mobilizing the Christian minority to vote.

Sadly for Paul and his family, his success drew the envy of his Muslim neighbors who were waiting for the right moment to strike.   That moment arrived when Paul’s parents were distributing New Testaments to poor Christian families in the neighborhood.  Their Muslim neighbors accused them of proselytizing Muslims, and within a week, Paul’s world was turned upside down. A few days after the false accusations against his parents were made, a group of men failed to kidnap his youngest brother.  As they were running away, they shouted:

“Infidel, convert to Islam.  Stop spreading Christianity in Muslim areas.”

Paul’s father then tried to get the police involved, but they refused, accusing him of proselytizing to Muslims. His father pleaded his innocence and asked for proof.  The police responded that the word of a Muslim against the word of a Christian was all the proof that was necessary.

Following his father’s unsuccessful attempt to get assistance from the police, Paul decided to seek help from his political connections.  But shortly after he left his house with his brother, they were attacked and severely beaten—Paul’s brother was stabbed—by a group of Muslims shouting,

“You are infidels.  We have the right to kill you.  You are the enemy of Islam.”

Left for dead by the mob, the two brothers were taken to a hospital by neighbors.  A few days later, still recovering from his injuries, Paul found out that his bank accounts were frozen by government officials and his stores were taken over by some of his neighbors (one store was burned to the ground).  He was also warned that an angry mob was heading towards his home to kill him and his family.  With little time to spare, he gathered his family, took the cash stored in the house, and fled to another city.

Sadly, their tragic story did not end there.  Not satisfied with stealing Paul’s stores, money, and homes, the Muslim mob now wanted his family’s blood.  They followed him and one evening, gathered outside his rented house with torches shouting,

“Infidel, we know you! You survived last time, but we will kill you this time.”

Gun shots were fired through the windows and as the angry mob was getting ready to torch the house, the Muslim owner arrived with the police to prevent his property from being burned.

The crowd was dispersed and Paul’s family took the opportunity to flee.  They went to a hotel, sold one car, and got tourist visas for Thailand.  A few days later, they drove to the airport, left their remaining car in the parking lot, and flew to Bangkok.

When Paul arrived in Thailand 18 months ago (December 2012), he was very angry and confused.   He was betrayed by people he trusted. His whole family was almost killed and everything he worked for was gone, stolen, lost forever, because his family was Christian and had no legal rights in Pakistan.

But today, after hearing the horrors stories of other Christians that have fled Pakistan, he thanks GOD that his whole family safely made it to Thailand.  Sadly, his father died six months ago, a refuge in a foreign land.  On a more positive note, his mother’s and sister’s family are now in the Netherlands, and he is expectied to join them soon with the remaining members of his family.

Author’s note: The names of the individuals in this article were changed to protect their relatives who remain in Pakistan.

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  • Ann Couper-Johnston

    Where is the outrage at this injustice? The UN hauls the Vatican over the coals with false claims of child abuse related to her position on contraception and abortion, but Pakistan gets away scot-free with this discrimination. That is not the much-vaunted equality they are supposed to promote!

  • mackykam

    Boo Hoo! The muslims did the same thing to the Jews. Christian neighbors of these Jews helped the muslim mob by instigating against the Jews and thus diverting attention from themselves..

  • Miriam

    It is dangerous being a Christian today, but it is so worth the battle.