Before the Crisis
As the world is affected by Covid 19, there has been an outpouring of support in the West, raising money, for instance, for PPE for the UK’s NHS. However, lockdown is a luxury that the West can by and large afford. It is easy for us to focus on the issues nearby, and forget those in a far worse position. For others social distancing is not an option, and, as ever, it is the most vulnerable and least able to cope who are often forgotten. This campaign has been set up in response to cries for help coming from the Christians in Pakistan.
Although there are some Christians in Pakistan who are relatively well off, middle class, we might say, the vast majority of the approximately 4 million or so Christians range from poor to extremely poor, and some are bonded labourers (basically a form of intergenerational family slavery). Even before the economic devastation of Covid 19 (and the recent locust plague that Pakistan and other nations are still battling), Pakistani Christians were in a terrible situation. Pakistan is currently independently ranked as the 5th worst country in the world to be a Christian in, worse than even countries such as Iran, Yemen, Eritrea and Sudan.
Their extreme poverty makes them especially vulnerable to pressure to convert from their faith under pressure from extremists, and the women and girls in particular are very vulnerable to all sorts of sexual abuse and assault, and it is estimated that about 2 a day are raped, kidnapped and forced to convert and either marry one of their kidnappers, or perhaps be forced into the sex slave trade. Christians frequently face violence or the threat of violence, and accusations of blasphemy which can lead to lynchings and whole Christian communities having to flee.
Aside from often being in especially precarious a position as day wage labourers liable to be laid off without warning, many of the poorest Christians work in two fields that are particularly vulnerable to the current crisis - agricultural workers, whose employers are also often their landlords, hit by both the virus effects and the locusts, and sanitation workers. Although Christians are about 2% of the population, they are estimated to make up around 80 to 90% of the cleaning and sanitation jobs, which are mostly actually reserved for religious minorities. This can range from road sweepers and rubbish collectors to sewage workers, having to go into the sewers. Their jobs expose them to disease, including Coronavirus, and they are rarely, if ever, given remotely adequate protection, and often have no rights to sick pay, or have it denied to them.
In this crisis
We have received reports of Christians being denied aid unless they convert to Islam - indeed one imam has publicly boasted on TV about getting a Christian to convert in return for food - and also of Christian girls and women being forced to submit to sexual abuse and assault in return for food. These things were far from unknown before, but based on previous experience of disaster situations, they will likely be happening even more in this crisis.
As well as the story of little Chris Javed (see our homepage), many Christians are facing a situation that brings them to utter despair. Whether they are maids in houses, but laid off so their employers can social distance, or other day labourers who have been laid off and were paid so poorly that they have no reserves and face immediate hunger and starvation, to farmers whose crops have been ravaged and destroyed by the locust plague, they are crying out for help.
Of course, there are other charities who are helping, and other local Christians who are better off who do what they can. For instance, women selling jewellery (often used as a source of easy to access wealth) to buy food for the needy. But the need is colossal, and they need our help.
We know that many reading will already give to good causes, even to similar ones, helping the vulnerable to survive - thank you. But we appeal to anyone of good will, and especially to those for whom these desperate Christians are family, our brothers and sisters, to give generously to supply the need, doing as we are commanded - to do good to all, but especially to the household of faith (Galatians 6.10). As John the Baptist told the crowds coming to him (Luke 3):
Produce fruit in keeping with repentance..... The axe is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.”“What should we do then?” the crowd asked.John answered, “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.”
If you won't give for their sake, give for your own, because on the last day, our Lord Jesus warned us that we will all be judged as righteous or not on how we helped his (and our) brothers and sisters (Matthew 25):
Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
For a typical family, on average, several independent sources on the ground have told us, bare survival costs around £50, minimum, for a month, but £75 would be better. That means that if 20 to 30 people got together and paid £2.50 each a month, or 10 to 15 paid £5 a month, at least one family could likely avoid starvation for that month. Help us help them to survive. Every little helps, and if you can pay more, whether as a one off, or on a regular basis, even better.