For Christians, the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is among the toughest mission fields in the world.
More than 95 percent of the 184 million souls who live in Pakistan claim Islam as their faith. The country has anti-conversion laws for Muslims and has served as the base of operations for extremists. The Taliban formed in Pakistan among a group of refugees from neighboring Afghanistan. In May, the Pakistani city of Abbottabad was revealed as the hiding place of Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
But the Gospel has taken root in Pakistan, says Hadayat Din, a native of Sialkot, in Pakistan’s northeastern Punjab province.
Converted in the U.S., Din returned to his native land and helped plant churches. Now 74, he and his wife live in Cordova, Tenn. Their two children are active church members. The couple also has seven grandchildren. Din corresponds with and encourages small groups of church members who pray for a spiritual awakening in Pakistan.
How did you become a Christian?
Before my conversion I lived a worldly life and was dead in sin. I was raised in a Muslim environment without a religious family background. I pursued secular education. I studied diligently and earned Master of Arts and Master of Education degrees from the top university of Pakistan. I worked as a teacher for 12 years.
My desire was to get higher education in America. I came to America, leaving my family behind. While I was a post-graduate student at Indiana University in Bloomington in 1976, I found a church bulletin on the campus. It was for the North Central Church of Christ, which was close to the campus.
The Holy Spirit guided me to contact brother Oliver E. Rogers, then the minister of this church. He conducted Bible studies with me for a few weeks. I started attending worship services. The brotherly love of the congregation and the teaching of brother Oliver persuaded me to study the Bible personally.
This congregation had a gospel meeting in October 1976. The evangelist delivered a powerful message on salvation. I confessed my sins and was baptized into Christ on Oct. 17, 1976.
Is it difficult for people in Pakistan to become Christians?
Though there are several hindrances for evangelism in Pakistan, everything is possible for Almighty God.
Pakistan is a Muslim country, but it tolerates non-Muslims to some extent. The constitution of Pakistan has given limited religious freedom to non-Muslims. The conversion of a Muslim into Christianity is very dangerous — both for the convert and the teacher, sometimes even resulting in death. Family and social rules make the life of the convert very difficult.
However, there are almost 7 million non-Muslims in Pakistan, and there is great opportunity for evangelism among these people. Erring Pakistani Christians are also open to learning the truth.
How are Pakistani Christians affected by the presence of groups such as Al-Qaeda and the Taliban?
Religious and political authorities have a tremendous impact on Christians. We know that Jesus, his disciples and the church in the first century also were victims of such powers.
We have the same situation in Pakistan. There are both moderate and extreme Muslims in Pakistan, but the Muslim clerics have influence upon all Pakistani Muslims. The extremist Muslims and Taliban are dangerous for Pakistani Christians. Because they are anti-Western, they think that Christianity is a Western religion. Hence, any action of Westerners against the cause of Islam becomes an excuse for extremist Muslims to take revenge on Pakistani Christians. Sometimes they burn church buildings, kill Christian worshipers and kidnap Christian preachers.
We thank God that the Christians are surviving in such a difficult situation.
Tell us about your church-planting work in Pakistan. Are there Churches of Christ there today?
Having been a new, born-again Christian in 1976, I was motivated by the Great Commission for world evangelism. I prayed and committed myself to do mission work in Pakistan and expressed my desire to the elders of the North Central church. The elders agreed to sponsor the mission work in Pakistan.
After attending Harding University Graduate School of Religion for two years, I went back to Pakistan and converted my immediate family. My wife joined with me in this mission work. We prayed, struggled and experienced opposition trusting in the Lord absolutely.
We sowed the seed, and God gave the increase. In this spiritual war we had both gains and losses. There have been more than 700 baptisms. We established 20 congregations, built two small church buildings, started a school of preaching, adult education program, did medical mission work on very small scale.
Unfortunately, 500 converts became unfaithful, and we lost a dozen congregations. At present we have seven small congregations, 200 church members, two trained preachers and a few volunteer church workers.
The Lord’s church at Sialkot is surviving and growing slowly, even in an adverse situation. I have heard that there also are a few Churches of Christ in Karachi, Sahiwal and Lahore.
Have Churches of Christ in Pakistan grown by converting Muslims or by converting members of Christian denominations?
It is illegal to convert a Muslim to another religion in Pakistan, but it is lawful to convert a non-Muslim to Islam. Before 1947, when this land was a part of India under the British rule, millions of Hindus and Muslims were converted by foreign denominational missionaries into Christianity. When Pakistan came into being, the law was reversed.
Now the Lord’s church has a scope of evangelism among erring Christians. We have converted the erring Christians from denominations into the Lord’s church. The denominational people are open for evangelism. The Restoration Movement and true teaching of the Bible have a great impact upon these converts.
What is your dream for Churches of Christ in Pakistan?
God has promised his people, “I will not forsake you. I will be with you always.”
I have hopeful and beautiful dreams for the Church of Christ at Sialkot. I dream about the Christians growing spiritually, educationally, economically and numerically.
I believe in the grace of God. The Great Shepherd will keep and protect his spiritual family in Pakistan.