A Pakistani Christian student group sends its members on trauma training to cope with daily life in this Commonwealth country
Getting coursework marked down and facing constant attempts at forced conversion to Islam are part of life for Christians in Pakistan.
Churches are attacked and even wearing a cross can put you at immediate risk, says Anee Muskan, a 24-year-old physiotherapy student. Anee contacted HEART to tell readers about the group she founded to support fellow Christian students.
Christian students in Pakistan are often stigmatised for their faith. Girls are a particularly easy target for harassment, and forced conversion remains a constant threat. One member of our student group used to get an F in an engineering module, but as soon as the teacher retired, they achieved an A grade.
The continuous discrimination we face in our society induces a particular sense of trauma. Neither the discrimination nor the trauma are ever addressed. To protect ourselves, we retreat into our shells; living like this can be emotionally exhausting.
And although our churches are supposed to be safe places to worship God, we often face the threat of terrorist attacks.
This discrimination is one reason why I founded Chosen Generation, a Christian group for university students that provides a welcoming atmosphere where students can discuss their struggles. Our mission is to bring students closer to God by providing an environment where they are free to worship and live out their faith.
A Christian student used to fail an engineering module, but as soon as the teacher retired, they achieved an A grade
We started as a small fellowship at the University of Lahore (UOL), meeting during the Friday break for Jummah – Islamic congregational prayers. In 2021, we gained student ambassadors at six other major educational institutions in Lahore, a really encouraging step forward.
The incense burner in our logo represents our desire to spread the “fragrance of Christ” by sharing the Gospel with fellow students (2 Corinthians 2:15).
Persecution, discrimination and being attacked in our churches has ingrained a certain fear in us, so in September Chosen Generation sent several members on an international trauma training course. This equipped them with the scientific knowledge and authentic techniques needed to cope with the traumas we face as Christian students and citizens in Pakistan. Those individuals will then teach these techniques to our other members.
We are also introducing monthly group therapy sessions to improve our members’ mental health.
We must bring our Christian youth out of their shells, encouraging their creativity and innovation so their divinely bestowed talents can flourish. As a Christian in Pakistan I believe we rarely have these opportunities.
Our creativity is enhanced and promoted at the level of Sunday schools and schools, but we seldom experience devoted and unbiased church fellowships. Even the societies and clubs offered at schools, colleges and universities tend towards nepotism, so we plan to introduce several of our own sub-groups to hone our members’ skills in debating,creative writing and public speaking.
One small group that began with the catchphrase, “Bring people close to God”, already runs its own animation series that highlights lesser-known Bible characters such as Jehosheba, who courageously saved the life of young Joash, Judah’s future king (2 Kings 11:2).
We celebrate the Christian festivals where our members can experience the same joy and freedom as children. On 17 December 2022, we hosted a Christmas celebration with the permission of the university authorities, a significant achievement which symbolically placed Christianity in the centre of our university. In 2020, we marked the end of Covid restrictions with a seminar on Christian persecution led by minority rights activist Mahrukh Saman Lal, a former electrical engineering student at UOL.
Our first leadership camp (‘Disciples’ Gala’) took place in 2021, sponsored by Pakistan Christian Outreach Foundation. We covered five exceptional biblical leaders, particularly focusing on Deborah to highlight the role of female leadership in the Bible.
Students also paid tribute to Fr Emmanuel Yousaf Mani for his outstanding example of Christian leadership, including serving as director of the National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP) of the Catholic Church of Pakistan. Thanks to the efforts of our six ambassadors in Lahore’s other educational institutions, around 30 students came from outside UOL.
Chosen Generation is keen to educate our members about their Christian heritage. We arranged a symposium on the history of Lahore’s United Christian Hospital, and also ran a tour of the Bible Museum Lahore with the Pakistan Bible Society.
In 2022 Chosen Generation gained 15 new members at 15 different universities, so they mark a significant expansion.
Our young people are the fragile seed that will eventually yield our nation’s future. This seed needs the sunshine of biblical values, the shade of good care, the fresh air of guidance and sometimes a small amount of pesticide in the form of loving correction!
With thanks to Anee Muskan, a physiotherapy student, whose second book, recently published, tells the stories of families of falsely accused victims of Youhanabad after the 2015 twin bombings.
Homes of 200 families destroyed
Government contractors have bulldozed the houses of 200 families in a Christian colony in Pakistan, without warning.
Premier News reports that the people of the Nawaz Sharif Colony in Islamabad were given no advance notice about the demolition of their homes by the Capital Development Authority (CDA) on 18 October. No one was hurt, but a church was also flattened and the Christians lost not only their homes but all their possessions, making them homeless in the middle of winter.
Christians lost not only their homes but all their possessions.
It is suspected that Muslim extremists pressurised the CDA to carry out the demolition.
Ukrainian Church leader and son murdered by Russian forces
Anatoliy Prokopchuk (52) and his son, Oleksandr (19), were shot four days after being taken by Russian soldiers. Their bodies were discovered in a forest.
Release International (RI) reports that the men were abducted on 22 November while working in their garage near Kherson.
RI’s partner in Ukraine, ‘Pavel’, says Anatoliy was a deacon and preacher at a Pentecostal church in Nova Kakhova, close to Kherson. Pavel believes the Russian troops told Anatoliy that his church had no right to exist because “it has connections with America and other western countries”.
Their bodies were discovered in a forest
Pavel added: “Their bodies had signs of prolonged and excruciating torture. They were so mutilated that it was difficult to identify them.”
Russian forces have arrested pastors and closed churches in other occupied areas of Ukraine.
Nigerian Slaughter of Christians continues
At least 46 people have been killed in Christian areas of southern Kaduna state by Fulani herdsmen and other Muslim terrorists.
From 18 to 20 December, attacks on the Malagum and Abun (Broni Prono) villages in Kaura County left 38 people dead, according to Luka Binniyat of the Southern Kaduna People’s Union (SOKAPU). Biniyat stated: “Not only were these poor innocent citizens killed, but not less than 100 houses were razed, with some victims burned alive” and “apparently, the security forces deployed there did nothing.”
Biniyat added that in the preceding days four farmers were killed in separate attacks in other villages, and in Zangon Kataf County on 20 and 21 December, armed herdsmen invaded homes in the village of Kamuru, killing four people, making a total of 46 people over five days.
Meanwhile, Fulani militants also attacked Christian communities in Enugu State in December – a state that has previously avoided most of the violence. Dozens were killed and whole villages cleared of inhabitants.
A recent report by the UK’s All Party Parliamentary Group for International Freedom of Religion or Belief stated that although most Fulani Muslims do not hold extremist views, a minority do, who “adopt a comparable strategy to Boko Haram and ISWAP [Islamic State West Africa Province] and demonstrate a clear intent to target Christians.”
Anti-Christian riots hit 20 villages
Persecution of Christians continues to increase in India, where Hindu radicals are attacking converts who refuse to return to Hinduism.
International Christian Concern (ICC) reports that church services were disrupted in 20 villages in Chhattisgarh state in December.
Believers suffered severe injuries, yet there have been no police investigations
Hindu nationalists beat Christians with sticks, robbed their houses and destroyed three churches. Some believers suffered severe injuries, yet there have been no police investigations.
In November, an Indian pastor was left for dead after being beaten by a mob because he refused to change his faith. He later regained consciousness, reports Faithwire.
Persecution in India has “skyrocketed” since the “BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) took power in 2014… It has created an increasingly dangerous climate for Indian believers,” says ICC president Jeff King.
Pastor jailed for holding prayer meeting
A church leader in Sudan was arrested and imprisoned on 21 November, charged with “witchcraft”, after leading a prayer meeting for his sick mother.
Pastor Abdalla Haron Sulieman’s 60-year-old mother was unable to walk but was healed when he prayed for her, and as a result Muslims rushed into the Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church, hoping to be healed too. Then Muslim extremists persuaded the police to arrest the pastor, accusing him of being a witchdoctor.
Muslims rushed into the church, hoping to be healed too
Religious freedom was advancing in Sudan under President Omar al-Bashir until the military coup of October 2021, which has worsened the situation.
Open Doors USA splits into two
After much-respected Bible smuggler Brother Andrew died last September, the US branch of the organisation he founded has suffered a split.
Open Doors USA has separated from Open Doors International and is renamed Global Christian Relief (GCR).
However, Premier News reports that Open Doors will continue to operate in the US under new leadership.
GCR aims to become the world’s “most extensive, covert network serving persecuted Christians.” The group announced the change on 1 January, saying: “We need a large vision to mobilise dedicated Christians to support our persecuted family in new and life-changing ways that will expand God’s Kingdom for the next 50 years.”
“Open Doors continues in the US, fully dedicated to the mission and vision of our late founder Brother Andrew to serve persecuted Christians”
Open Doors was started in 1955 by Dutchman Andrew van der Bijl, known as Brother Andrew and ‘God’s Smuggler’.
A spokesperson for Open Doors UK told Premier: “Lisa Pearce has been named the interim CEO of Open Doors in the US. This follows the departure of former CEO David Curry, who is now heading up a separate organisation that is not affiliated with Open Doors.
“Open Doors continues in the US, fully dedicated to the mission and vision of our late founder Brother Andrew to serve persecuted Christians.”