Rehena is a Pakistani Christian. In her own words, she shares what life is like for believers in Pakistan, and how you can pray for them. Please note that all names and some details have been changed to protect identities.
Rehena's faith in Jesus is what keeps her going through the trials she faces as a Christian - and a woman - in Pakistan
“My shift starts at 8pm. Sometimes I have to come back for the night shift. But what can I do? I have no choice other than to work at the factory.
“I have an eight-year-old son, Jadoon. My father is sick. And I’m a single mother. I’m the only one who can take care of my son and my father. It’s bad enough that I have to leave them alone every night.”
“At work, it is dangerous to discuss my faith in Jesus in any way” Rehena
Believers are often regarded as second-class citizens and forced to work in menial jobs. Pakistani Christians are passed over for better careers, bullied in school and refused medical care. Pakistan in number seven on the World Watch List – even though less than two per cent of the country’s population is Christian, they face extreme persecution and count a high cost for their faith.
“I dreamed of putting Jadoon in school,” says Rehena*. “But now I think my son will be like his mother – illiterate. As Christians, we are unsafe in the place we live. At work, it is dangerous to discuss my faith in Jesus in any way. We have to hide our identity. We cannot even say the name of Christ.
“I remember one woman who used to work in the same factory where I am. She had completed her work and whispered the name of Jesus under her breath. Her floor manager told her never to say that again.
“He began to harass her and ask her to massage his shoulders. One day, he tried to touch her. When she fought back, he was so angry, he kicked her out of the factory. He said there would be more consequences, and a few days later, she was accused of blasphemy – of desecrating the Quran.”
The country’s blasphemy laws are often used this way – to settle scores, and to target members of minority religions. Even baseless accusations can severely endanger someone. Every year, hundreds of Pakistani women face pressure and abuse because they are Christian and female. And more than 600,000 Christian women work in factories in conditions similar to those Rehena describes.
“When I had my son, I was put on a dirty bed that still had blood from the birth before me” Rehena
“This is how life is in Pakistan,” Rehena continues. “We are a lower class because we are Christians. It is an insult to Muslims to eat with us off the same plate. If we touch their plate, it becomes defiled. We have no right to any privileges and have no right to dignity.
“Being a Christian woman is hard. When I had my son, I was put on a dirty bed that still had blood from the woman who had given birth before me. Other women were given a clean bed, but for me, the ‘Isai’, the Urdu word for ‘Christian’, there was only the option of a dirty bed.”
As well as being treated with little-to-no dignity, Rehena knows just how dangerous it is to be a Christian woman in Pakistan. Girls and women are vulnerable to kidnap and forced marriage – Rehena witnessed this within her own family.
“My cousin was kidnapped when she was eight years old and married to a Muslim man. We were like sisters and used to play together. Her kidnapping was a tragedy. But now, there is so much difference in our lives. Today, she is a Muslim woman with three children. She has a good life; she has food to eat, and her children go to school. She must teach them the Islamic prayers.
“I don’t know if she still remembers Jesus. I wonder if she still holds Jesus in her heart. Does she still talk to Him, secretly? Because someone who meets Jesus once can never forget Him.”
“If I must choose between Jesus and a better life, the choice is not difficult” Rehena
Rehena’s life is not easy – but her faith is strong. “For me, if I must choose between Jesus and a better life, the choice is not difficult. But the question for me, and for all my sisters and brothers in Pakistan, is this: ‘Why should we have to choose between Jesus and a life of comfort and acceptance?’
“It is difficult. But my grandmother used to sing a hymn: ‘To whom shall we go? Jesus is the only way. And I have chosen already: Jesus, my Jesus.’ And this is what I cling to.”
Rehena’s story is just one of thousands of similar testimonies from Pakistan. As well as discrimination, any Christian accused of blasphemy can face mob violence, as we saw in Jaranwala in August.
Your prayers and gifts can help believers like Rehena to continue to follow Jesus, despite the pressure and the danger. Please remember the church in Pakistan in your prayers today.
*Name changed for security reasons
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