“For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble; he will conceal me under the cover of his tent; he will lift me high upon a rock.”
– Psalm 27:5
Dear Christian Friends
The first part of Psalm 27 is marked by a deep trust in God in the face of threats and attacks. The psalmist describes his enemies using two types of symbols: ferocious predators and a large army.
Those who threaten him are first likened to wild animals stalking their prey and tearing its flesh, but they stumble and fall (verse 2). They are also said to be like an army surrounding and laying siege to him, causing terror and threatening death (verse 3).
This imagery is an accurate depiction of what it feels like to be a Christian in places where religious fanatics abound and believers are in the minority. Many Christians live under constant threat of being pounced on and with a feeling of being surrounded, pressed in and kept down – hated and sometimes even hunted by their own compatriots.
But the psalmist is focused on God’s presence (in His tabernacle) and confident of God’s protection and invincibility. He looks to the Lord to lift his head and spirits.
Such confidence, like all faith, is a gift, and I wish I’d prayed more often that pithy prayer recorded in Mark 9.24: “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” How beautifully and honestly it expresses both faith (although weak) and dependency on God. I’m sure that prayer is pleasing to the Lord for its integrity and its child-like looking unto Him. It’s a great antidote to ‘taking our spiritual temperatures’ – looking inward and attempting to measure our faith. It coaxes us out of introspection and turns our attention outward and upward, towards the Lord and His grace.
So this week, let’s pray for both protection and faith for three Pakistanis who, along with their families, are being hunted and threatened by fanatics who hate them just because they bear the name of Christ:
Praise and thank God with us that a Pakistani court last week acquitted a Christian ‘blasphemy’ prisoner on the grounds of mentally instability and because no-one had seen him commit the alleged crime, and another Christian facing ‘blasphemy’ charges was released on bail.
However, they still need our prayers – and so does their defence lawyer:
Shahbaz Masih’s life sentence was overturned at a Lahore High Court hearing on 19 January. He has spent more than five years in prison having been jailed on 4 June 2001 for allegedly tearing up a Quran in a Muslim graveyard in Faisalabad.
The 28-year old’s lawyer, Khalil Sindhu, plans to “keep him in a secret place” as Shahbaz’s life may still be in danger from Muslim fanatics angered by the verdict.
Threats from radical groups have also forced Shahbaz’s family into hiding several times since his arrest.
Mr Sindhu is uncertain whether Shahbaz will ever be reunited with his parents and five siblings in Lahore, and he hopes Shahbaz will be able to obtain refugee status abroad.
Another Pakistani Christian, 17-year old Shahid Masih, who is also a ‘blasphemy’ suspect, was bailed but he reported “When I was sent to jail, I was beaten by my fellow prisoners before they put me in an isolation cell.”
He went into hiding last week whilst awaiting a court decision over accusations that he defiled the Quran. “I do not feel safe, because I have to live in hiding,” the teenager says.
Muslim fanatics have followed Shahid’s case since he and a Muslim friend were accused of tearing pages from a book containing Quranic verses and their Urdu translations last September.
“His life is in danger because they [the fanatics] are very emotional and feel it is unjust that Shahid has been granted post-arrest bail,” Mr Sindhu, who is representing Shahid as well as Shahbaz, said.
Due to his own work with blasphemy prisoners, much of it pro bono, Mr Sindhu and his family have faced ongoing threats to their own lives and safety. The lawyer’s wife and sons have temporarily gone into hiding to avoid attack.
You can read more details and see photos of Shahbaz and Shahid on our website at: http://www.opendoorsuk.org.uk/news/news_archives/001816.php
Please pray with us that:
* The Lord will hide and protect Shahbaz, Shahid and Mr Sindhu – and their families – from those who would seek to harm them
* He will deliver their hearts from fear with His perfect love and give them great faith
* Shabaz will be granted asylum in a safe country in record short time
* Shahid will soon be acquitted of ‘blasphemy’ and find a place of safety
* Promised amendments to the Pakistan‘s ‘blasphemy’ legislation will be passed or, better yet, the pernicious ‘blasphemy’ laws will be repealed altogether.
Thank you for your support and for praying with us.
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