We are greatly blessed to have religious freedom in the United States of America. This weekend we will celebrate our Independence Day by singing patriotic songs, eating fun food together at picnics and BBQ’s and enjoying fireworks displays. In the last few days I have been reminded very forcefully of the value and importance of the freedoms we celebrate on July 4th.
Three times this week I have heard news about the struggles of Christians in Pakistan. On Tuesday morning I met with a recently relocated Christian leader from Pakistan. He moved here in May after three pastors were killed in his hometown. A severe blasphemy law has been passed there and any such accusation leads to vigilantism and harassment of the accused. My guest shared his life story with me. His father was a Presbyterian pastor for 65 years and he became a pastor himself in addition to his work as an educator. Many of the best educational institutions in Pakistan were created by Christian missionaries and have now been nationalized.
The second news from Pakistan came through a member of our Bible study. She told the story of meeting a mother and daughter from Pakistan. They too told stories of harassment and persecution of Christians that was so great that they fled their own country. Both these women and my guest Tuesday expressed gratitude for the safety and freedom from persecution they found here in the United States.
Then, Thursday morning, I received a phone message from Parvais. Parvais is an Anglican priest and has visited St. Dunstan’s Church on several occasions. Parvais reports that he has moved from Pakistan to the UK. This is significant for a priest, educator and leader who recently stood for election as a bishop.
That makes three times in one week that I have received news that Christians are being persecuted and forced to leave Pakistan. So, I pass this news on to you, the good people of St. Dunstan’s Church, and ask that you hold the people of Pakistan in your prayers.
As we celebrate our freedom and independence, I pray that we will remember our brothers and sisters in faith around the world who do not have the safety or freedom to gather, pray, and worship Christ. May God bless them and keep them safe. May God bless us and help us to be mindful of the needs of others and mindful of the abundant blessing and freedom we enjoy as citizens of this country, especially on this important national holiday.
Yours in Christ,
The Rev. David Marshall