Why go to Pakistan?

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why go to Pakistan
The author in Pakistan

By Michael Ashcraft —

At first, I didn’t understand the significance of ministering in Pakistan. I just felt “called,” as Christians often mysteriously do.

Now I know why. After studying more about Pakistan, I’ve learned it is the breeding ground for terrorism. In fact, Pakistan surpasses even Saudi Arabia in propagating militant Islam around the world. Saudi Arabia may have financed the spreading of radical Islam internationally, but it promoted ideas largely developed by Pakistanis.

The Taliban became a household name when they, with Osama Bin Laden, sponsored the 9/11 terrorism attacks. But the Taliban got their ideas from a Pakistani: Abul A’la Maududi advocated for the militant overthrow of every nation and for the establishment of an Islamic caliphate ruling the world.

Maududi of Pakistan has been one of the biggest advocates for Islamic take over of the world.

“Islam wishes to destroy all states and governments anywhere on the face of the earth which are opposed to the ideology and programme of Islam,” Maududi wrote. “Towards this end, Islam wishes to press into service all forces which can bring about a revolution and a composite term for the use of all these forces is ‘Jihad’…. the objective of the Islamic ‘jihād’ is to eliminate the rule of an un-Islamic system and establish in its stead an Islamic system of state rule.”

Today, Hamas is creating havoc in Gaza. But Hamas derives its ideas from Maududi. Maududi has influenced the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Muslim terrorists in Southeast Asia.

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed after his capture. He was a Pakistani who dreamed up the plan of the 9/11 terror attacks.

For his part, Bin Laden became the face of terrorism. But it was a Pakistani, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who drew up the plans for crashing planes into buildings. In terms of making a movie, Bin Laden as financier of the operation was its producer, but Khalid was its director.

To minister in Pakistan is the counter extremist ideologies right at its center flashpoint.

Last summer, Pakistanis rose up and burned churches and homes of Christians after somebody allegedly disparaged Islam’s prophet.

Pakistan is officially Islamic, the only nation founded as an “Islamic Republic.” Only 1% of the population is Christian.

On the Northwestern corner of the Indian Subcontinent, Pakistan has played an outsized role in terrorism worldwide. And yet it is (somewhat) open to the Gospel.

Thus, it seems to be with considerable irony that you can go into Pakistan and minister (somewhat) freely, as I just did in the city of Faisalabad. (You can’t get into Saudi Arabia or Iran to minister the gospel like that.)

You can talk about Jesus, but you’d better not mention anything about Islam, the Koran or the prophet.

Is it dangerous? I was assigned bodyguards but not once felt threatened. I never saw a hostile face. All the Pakistanis I met were friendly, and I felt the security detail arranged for me by my Pakistani pastor friend was excessive.

Once when a Pakistani approached me and cheerily asked what I thought of his nation and of Muslims, my bodyguards closed in, bristling, ready to pounce at the slightest provocation. I shook the man’s hand and responded that his nation and people were “beautiful.” One bodyguard said shukriya – thank you – in a cold manner that communicated “you’d better walk off and leave us alone.”

Christianity in Pakistan

You can’t evangelize Muslims or street-preach. But you can hold services in Christian churches and anyone may attend.

With my Dutch pastor friend, I ministered three nights of crusade and one morning of pastors’ conference. My host, Pastor Sarfraz Masih, was tirelessly organizing to mount the massive activity.

There were so many smiles in the people. It seems that Christian events are few and far between, and for churches to gather in mass was a joyous time.

The church in Pakistan, it appears to me, is doing a great job of strengthening Christianity but could use outside support. It only takes one man, as Bin Laden showed, to do great evil around the world. Conversely, it only takes one man to do great good around the world. I went to Pakistan to find and help that one man, though I don’t know who he might be.

My bodyguards in Pakistan. The government doesn’t want any problems.

I visited a Christian school, where I saw children being given the opportunity to break out of the bottom-of-the-barrel jobs left for Christians in a society that lacks the anti-discrimination measures of the United States. Reserved for Christians: brick-making, domestic work, cleaning sewers and the like.

I visited a brickyard, where contrary to expectations, I was greeted by joyous smiles and offers to share tea. Despite the harsh conditions under which they labor, squatting to make brick after brick, they didn’t appear forlorn and distraught about their miserable conditions. The joy of the Lord was evident among them.

There are more Muslims in the Indian Subcontinent – comprising Pakistan, Northern India and Bangladesh – than anywhere in the world. At 650 million, there are more Muslims than there are Arabs in the world, more Muslims than there are Americans, more Muslims than there are in Indonesia.

Dr. Jay Smith

“The Indian subcontinent is by far much greater, much bigger than anything in the Arab world,” says Dr. Jay Smith, who has a PhD in Islamic Polemics. He has dedicated his life to scholar-based debate against Islam.

The great polemecists online who advocate vigorously for Islam (and attack Christianity vigorously) all hail from the Indian subcontinent: Ahmed Deedat, Zakir Naik, Shabir Ally, Ahmed Rashid. There’s not one Arab among them.

In part that’s because they were trained by the British educational system. They learned debate, and they recognize that Christianity is their biggest competitor for a universal world view.

Pastor Mike squats to the level of the kids of the Potter’s House School, an attempt to help Christian kids break out of the cycle of poverty in Pakistan.

So why did the Saudis spend $75 billion from 1982 to 2005 to spread radical Islam around the world — more than the Soviets ever spent to spread communism*? The reason derives from King Fahd wanting to shore up his right to rule by getting legitimacy from Islam — a strategy Muslim rulers have done since Mohammad.

If Christians want to reach Muslims with the love of Christ, they don’t have to go far. They can find a learn the basics of scholarly criticism, find a local mosque and engage in debate. If they do want to go far and reach Muslims at the center of Islam, the Indian subcontinent is open.

Pakistan is a mixed bag. The vast majority of its people are loving and tolerant. But there are radicalized regions (the Pashtun region) where Americans are not even allowed to go. And as the riots show last summer, it can also be a tinderbox.

There were only smiles in the brick fields of Pakistan. The hexagenarian invited Pastor Mike to tea, an extraordinary offer given his abject poverty.

I first felt the call to minister in Pakistan two decades ago while I was still a missionary in Guatemala. But nothing came of it until recently Pastor Tim Moynihan made contact and opened ministry with Pastor Sarfraz. He invited me and I didn’t pause. At that time, I didn’t realize the full import of what I was doing.

About this writer: Michael Ashcraft pastors a church in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles.

* Stats from Dore Gold, Hatred’s Kingdom: How Saudi Arabia Supports the New Global Terrorism.

Also on Pakistan: Christians in the Pakistani brickyards, is it safe to preach in Pakistan?, Persecution of Christians in Pakistan, short-term mission trips to Pakistan, After science collapsed recently, Islam alone remains as competitor to Christianity for prevailing world view

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