Hartford, Connecticut, June 25, 2022
Amid ongoing harsh persecution of Christians in Pakistan, the Holy Orthodox Order of Saint George the Great Martyr is blessed to launch a fundraising campaign for building a new Orthodox Christian temple there to serve the needs of the pious faithful of St. Michael the Archangel Mission.
This holy temple will be only the second Orthodox Church ever built in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan apart from an embassy compound. It will enable 300 families at the mission who attend services currently outdoors and in tents to worship in a permanent and more protected structure, notes their rector Father Joseph Farooq.
Christians in Pakistan as a whole are a tiny minority who face challenges including mob violence resulting from anti-blasphemy laws, and forced marriage and conversion to Islam, according to Open Doors, which monitors persecution of Christians worldwide.
“We need to open our treasury of prayer and resources to the Orthodox evangelism in Pakistan,” said the Order’s Grand Knight Konstantine Pandolfi. “to let our brothers and sisters in Christ there know that they are not forgotten and have the support of the Order and world Orthodoxy Let’s not force our brothers and sisters to hide their faith, but instead be inspired to be a beacon of light!”
The Order seeks to raise $30,000 as soon as possible this year for the construction of the temple, and donations can be made at this link, by writing “Pakistani mission” in the memo field.
“We do not have a church building and we currently arrange Divine Liturgies under the shade of trees, under tents, and in open courtyards,” the Rector of St. Michael’s mission, Father Joseph Farooq, told the Order in his request for help. “I will be thankful to you for your kind response.”
The mission that Fr. Joseph heads has about 850 worshippers plus 50 catechumens, he reports–but no permanent temple structure
Specified donations will go directly to the mission building fund. (Note that administrative fees mentioned on the Order donation link will not apply to gifts designated for the Pakistani mission.)
The temple planned by Fr. Joseph’s Pakistan mission in Saghora, Punjab, will be the first new Orthodox Church built in the entire country in eight years, and only the second in the nation’s history. Pakistan has a population of more than 215 million people.
Open Doors, a charity monitoring persecutions of Christians from various traditions worldwide, describes the context: “In Pakistan, Christians are considered second-class citizens and are discriminated against in every aspect of life. Church leaders can be arrested if they don’t abide by the authorities’ wishes. These arrests act as warnings to the Christian minority and intimidates them further. The COVID-19 crisis led to an increase of aid being provided to Christian day laborers only if they converted to Islam. Pakistan’s infamous blasphemy laws continue to be leveraged to accuse non-Muslims (or minority Muslim sects) of insulting the Prophet Mohammed or the Quran—even a false accusation can lead to mob violence. Additionally, a silent epidemic of kidnappings, forced marriages and forced conversion of Christian girls and women continue to take place in Pakistan.” Public hangings, stonings, and other types of attacks can combine religious bias with personal vendettas, as Open Door’s report indicates.
Christians of all traditions in Pakistan are the largest minority religion, but make up only about 3.7 percent of the total population. Many come from Islam, Hinduism and Sikhism, although most of Fr. Joseph’s flock are former Catholics and Protestants who have turned to Orthodoxy for the full holy and apostolic faith, he says.
Asked about the fundraising effort for the Pakistan Church building project, Hieromonk Felipe (Balingit), a clergy member of the Order, said that such efforts are especially needed for Asian and Pacific Orthodox evangelism today where “the fields are white for harvest.” As the Dean of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia’s missions in the Philippines and formerly assistant professor-lecturer at the University of Santo Tomas there, he notes that many people in non-Orthodox lands in Asia are searching for truth beyond the materialism of modern secularism and Western religions that have departed from the apostolic Church. (Fr. Felipe witnessed Fr. Joseph’s ordination in Sri Lanka.)
The Holy Orthodox Order of Saint George the Great Martyr is a pan-Orthodox chivalric order of knighthood (and 501c3 US tax-exempt charity) founded in 2019 with a blessing from Metropolitan Hilarion of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, of blessed memory. Its spiritual adviser currently is Archimandrite Maximos (Weimar), Abbot of St. Dionysius Monastery on Long Island, New York, USA (ROCOR). The Order has raised more than $140,000 for Orthodox philanthropic causes so far despite disruptions in fundraising activities due to the pandemic.