By Theodore Shoebat
Muslims in Pakistan demanded that a Christian pastor be given to them as a hostage, saying, “We will cut him into pieces and send a piece of his body to every Christian pastor in Pakistan.” According to the report:
In the quiet oasis of a Rapid City church, Pervaiz Joseph on Tuesday calmly spoke of a cell, thousands of miles away, where kidnappers once tortured him for his Christian faith.
An evangelical Bishop from Pakistan, Joseph, 47, has been living in Rapid City with his wife, son, and daughter for a little more than a month. They are here because their home country has become too dangerous for them.
After years of living as refugees in Sri Lanka with their paperwork hanging in limbo, the family has successfully received asylum in the United States thanks to help from the office of U.S. Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., and Pastor Kelli Patterson of Restored Life Outreach Fellowship church in Rapid City.
“We have a lot to learn from their faith,” Patterson said of the Josephs. “They carry their church with them.”
Sitting in Patterson’s church, Joseph reflected on the several-year journey that he and his family have been on to escape religious persecution in their homeland.
“I didn’t want to leave my country,” Joseph said. “I love my country. But I’m here because God has a purpose for me.”
Joseph used to be a Christian ambassador of peace in Pakistan. His job was to help bridge the gap between the Christian and Muslim communities, mainly in Lahore, the capital city of Punjab, where he lived. As a prestigious evangelical bishop, his work frequently put him in contact with high-ranking government officials.
“I had the secret code for the prime minister’s phone,” Joseph said with a wry smile.
He was in a small town about 400 miles away from Lahore when the trouble began. It was early 2009, and the son of the local mayor had grown angry with Joseph for openly preaching Christianity.
So the mayor’s son had Joseph kidnapped.
“My kidnappers told me I had to deny Jesus,” Joseph said. “I told them, ‘No, I cannot.’ So they said, ‘Then you have to give us money.’”
The kidnappers demanded a $40,000 ransom from Joseph’s wife, Razia. They told Joseph that if she said anything to anyone, they would take away his children next.
They kept Joseph in a torture cell for two days while they waited. They smashed in his ribs and broke his wrist and shoulder bones.
Razia came through with the money, and the kidnappers let him go, but Joseph’s troubles were not over.
The mayor’s son had persuaded a household servant to accuse Joseph of robbery. In Pakistan, Joseph said, the law allows the authorities to jail an accused robber for up to six months before a trial even takes place.
Joseph went straight from his torture cell to another cell in the local jail. He remained there for 20 days, and was let go only when the servant who had accused him of robbery recanted.
Joseph contemplated taking legal action of his own but decided against it.
“There is no justice there,” he said with a dismissive wave of his hand.
Having regained his freedom, Joseph remained an active force in the religious community. He attended protests against the persecution of Christians and continued to pray with the Muslims in Lahore.
The kidnapping, the torture, all of that he could take. It was what came next that convinced him and his family they must flee.
He was attending a community event on Oct. 12, 2011, when a group of Islamic extremists—and Joseph emphasized the word “extremists”—accused him of blasphemy.
“Falsely accused,” Joseph said with emphasis.
A local attorney accused Joseph of profaning the Prophet Muhammed. She, along with several other religious leaders, including members of the Taliban, turned the crowd against him, Joseph said.
He was forced into hiding. It is a rule in Pakistan, Joseph said, that someone who is accused of blasphemy is a fair target for militants to do with as they see fit.
Soon there were phone calls threatening Joseph’s life and the lives of his family members. The family’s housekeeper and chauffeur were bludgeoned. His superiors at the United Bishops Council Office began receiving ultimatums.
“They said, ‘You have to hand over the bishop and his family,’” Joseph said. “They said, ‘We will cut him into pieces and send a piece of his body to every Christian pastor in Pakistan.’”
Joseph said there were about 400 other Christian pastors in Pakistan at the time.
“They said, ‘If you do not hand over the bishop and his family,’” Joseph said, “‘we will burn all the Christian houses.’”
Shortly after that the Christian leadership told Joseph he had to leave.
The family fled to Sri Lanka. In 2011, the Sri Lankan government was seeking out refugees and deporting them, so the Josephs had to remain in hiding a long while, staying at the homes of friends and in churches kind enough to give them shelter.
“It was like being persecuted all over again,” said Joseph’s daughter, Meerab, 17. “I would sneak out of the house to make sure nobody saw me, so nobody found out I was a Pakistani.”
Unable to attend school in broad daylight, Joseph’s children had to do most of their studies online, which is where Joseph met Patterson, a fellow Christian pastor living in Rapid City. They started regularly corresponding over Facebook, and Patterson would send money when she could.
Knowing the family was desperately trying to get asylum in the United States, Patterson called Thune’s office for help.
“I just knew it was the right thing to do,” Patterson said.
It took about a year to cut through all the red tape, but without Thune’s help, Joseph is convinced it would have taken longer.
“Last year, several constituents contacted my Rapid City office regarding Bishop Joseph and his family who were working through the asylum process at that time,” Thune said in an email to the Journal. “My staff worked with the State Department on their behalf to make sure the process remained on track and due diligence was given to their application. I am pleased to hear Bishop Joseph and his family are now here in the United States.”
Altogether, the Josephs spent four years, one month, and three days in Sri Lanka.
“It’s become habit,” said Joseph’s son, Aaroon “Leo” Joseph, 22. “To count the days.”
After 42 hours of travel time, the exhausted family finally arrived at Rapid City Regional Airport on December 4. They were greeted at the terminal by cheers and tearful hugs from members of the Restored Life Outreach Fellowship church.
Though the Josephs have been through much hardship, it is difficult to tell from their demeanor. Every one of them is quick to a smile, and they are constantly laughing at each other’s jokes. They all agree that it’s precisely this shared sense of humor that has kept them going.
That and their faith.
“You have to rejoice,” Meerab said, spreading her hands over her head.
This is just regular life for Christians in Pakistan. This is why we have been working so hard in Pakistan in trying to rescue Christians from this horrid persecution. While our government gives millions of tax dollars to Pakistan, we must work to help rescue our fellow Christians there. Please make a donation that will be used to help save Christians from islamic tyranny in Pakistan.