Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Turmoil faces Pakistan in the wake of assassination

Pakistan-Officials in Pakistan are considering a delay in the January 8 parliamentary elections following the assassination of Opposition leader Benazir Bhutto last week.Her death sparked waves of violence and unrest, causing authorities to worry that local governments would not be ready for electoral duties.There are also concerns that the strong emotional reaction to the assassination would skew results.Next to President Pervez Musharraf, Bhutto was the best-known political figure in the country, serving two terms as prime minister between 1988 and 1996. She was respected in the West for her liberal outlook and determination to combat the spread of Islamic extremism.Such extremism has been the bane to evangelistic work in Pakistan. Open Doors supports the evangelical church in Pakistan, which numbers about 2 percent. Minister-at-large for the ministry Paul Estabrooks wonders, "Is he (Musharraf) going to impose martial law because of the violence which could result, or will he allow the elections to go ahead?"Although Al Qaeda is denying its involvement, Estabrooks thinks differently. "She really believed that it was extremist Muslims that were out to kill her. That was her personal belief. I don't think she was a paranoid person, so I think there was something to her beliefs on this."Bhutto's death is one more ingredient in the de-stabilizing formula that allows such extremist groups room to grow. Because of that,Estabrooks predicts the immediate future doesn't look good for the country or for Christians."I think there's going to be some turmoil for quite some time over this, and of course in the past Christians have often been the object of anger of the dominantly Muslim society there."While Christians must be careful, Estabrooks is hoping that "out of this crisis, which seems to be so terrible, that God will give opportunities for our Christian brothers and sisters to share their faith with their community, both at a public statement level and in an individual one-on-one."Pakistan is not the only country being affected by the uproar. Grand Rapids, Michigan-based Mission India's Dave Stravers says of the effect on India, that "Christians are complaining that some of the national officials that do protect them from local Hindu extremists, their attention is diverted, and they're not willing to get involved in another aspect of religious violence because of this fear that Muslim/Hindu animosity might break out in the country."His comments refer to the Christmas week violence against believers in Orissa state.There have been unconfirmed reports of Christians being killed in those attacks. At least a dozen church buildings have been destroyed and numerous meetings broken up.The All-India Christian Council asked for better protection against the continued attacks.Christians were told that a government visit to Orissa was planned in order to set up procedures that would protect Christians from attack. Now, in the wake of the assassination, religious fervor is being stoked to frenzy. There are concerns that the Muslim/Hindu conflicts will explode along Pakistan's borders with India.Whenever sectarian violence flares, Stravers says, minorities-in this case, Christians-bear the brunt."Stability definitely enhances the Gospel, so I'm praying for the peace of Pakistan, and I'm praying of the peace of India, and I'm praying that whatever evil elements in the country that are seeking to use these political events for their own ends, that God will frustrate them."
As in the days of Noah....

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