12 November 2014
UK Christians call for prayer as Christian death toll in South Asia reaches record high
Bombing in Peshawar church, September 2013 (British Pakistani Christian Association)
An average of two to three Christian girls are being kidnapped daily, raped and forced into Islamic marriages in Pakistan where more Christians died for their faith last year than any other year in recent memory.
In response to what is seen as a systematic move against Christians in Pakistan, South Asian Christians in the UK have called a special prayer meeting in Glasgow – home to almost half of Scotland's 'Scottish Asians' – later this year. Among this population, the largest proportion is of Pakistani origin.
Wilson Chowdhry of the British Pakistan Christian Association, who is scheduled to address the prayer meeting, said Christians in Pakistan face oppression daily.
"We all have friends and family in South Asia who are living in fear of persecution. Not only are young Christian girls being kidnapped and forced into marriage but we are getting reports that Hindu girls are also being kidnapped and forced to convert to Islam. Some Imams are reportedly preaching from the pulpits that forced marriage is legitimised by the Qu'ran," said Chowdhry whose wife, Juliette, lost 13 members of her family in the twin bombing in Peshwar last year.
"Children have to travel to school and church on buses with armed security escorts while police and army are guarding churches," he added.
Sheem Gill of the Scottish Asian Christian Fellowship said in many parts of Asia Christians are under attack including in places with biblical links such as Syria.
"The disturbing reality is that persecution of Christians in the Islamic world has become endemic," said Gill.
Manoj Raithatha, co-ordinator of the South Asian Forum of the Evangelical Alliance, says prayer is very powerful. He is urging leaders of the Scottish Asian church to join the prayer meeting.
"There are many burning issues facing the church in the UK today however persecution and the brutal murders of Christians because of their faith must not be side-lined. It is a very big issue that needs to be placed very high, if not at the top of, the church's agenda. As well as praying for Christians under pressure, we are meeting in Glasgow to encourage each other in our mission in Scotland, to share good news with all and especially South Asian," said Raithatha.
Fred Drummond, national director of Evangelical Alliance Scotland, said: "This is a great opportunity for the Church in Scotland to take our eyes off ourselves and think of our brothers and sisters who are suffering because of their love of Jesus.
"We must spiritually stand shoulder to shoulder with parts of the body of Christ in their time of suffering and pray that our Lord may bring strength and peace to those facing hatred, abuse and torture for the sake of the gospel.
"The Church in Scotland must also speak out to those in power with one voice for those who scream out in the darkness."
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Notes to Editors
- The prayer meeting is being held at Pollokshields Church of Scotland in Glasgow on Sunday 23 November. Visit the South Asian Forum website for more details.
- The meeting will receive an update on the persecution of the church in South Asian countries and the challenge of mission in Scotland from Wilson Chowdhry and other speakers.
About South Asian Forum
The South Asian Forum of the Evangelical Alliance (SAF) exists to provide a forum for South Asian Christians in the UK to encourage, support and equip each other for mission, and to represent their concerns to Government, media and the wider Church. Visit www.saf.eauk.org for more information.
The Evangelical Alliance
We are the largest and oldest body representing the UK’s two million evangelical Christians. For more than 165 years, we have been bringing Christians together and helping them listen to, and be heard by, the government, media and society. We’re here to connect people for a shared mission, whether it’s celebrating the Bible, making a difference in our communities or lobbying the government for a better society. From Skye to Southampton, from Coleraine to Cardiff, we work across 79 denominations, 3,500 churches, 750 organisations and thousands of individual members. And we're not just uniting Christians within the UK – we are a founding member of the World Evangelical Alliance, a global network of more than 600 million evangelical Christians. For more information, go to www.eauk.org.