Lubna Safdar is a young Catholic widow in Sarghoda, in the Punjab province of Pakistan. She is the mother of a two-year-old son, Sharon. She is suffering in the wake of the murder of her husband, Safdar Masih, and the failure of authorities to launch a timely investigation of the crime. The Pontifical Charity, Aid to Church in Need sees this as evidence of the second-class status of Christians in the country.
Christians in Pakistan are mostly very poor and have few opportunities to advance economically; their needs and rights are routinely ignored by authorities, while textbooks in state-run schools denigrate their faith. This is Lubna’s story:
“Safdar worked day and night, both as the driver of an auto-rickshaw [a motorized development of the traditional pulled rickshaw or cycle rickshaw). During the day he cleaned offices and at night he drove the auto-rickshaw. He received his wages of 400 Rupees [$2.50] daily. We struggled to meet household expenses.
“Still, we led a happy, joyful life, and we were thankful to God. My husband was noble: he worked hard and had no quarrels with anyone. He was usually home at 10 or 11 in the evening.
“On June 8, 2019, he went to work but did not come home. I was very worried, as he was never late. His brother helped me look for him. We went street by street but could not find him. The next morning, someone told us that he’d seen the body of Safdar Masih in the local hospital. He had been murdered.
Beaten and shot
“It was horrible to see my husband’s dead body. Before being shot, he had been badly beaten; he sustained a head injury, and blood was still pouring out of him. After seeing him in this state, I decided to take action,” Lubna Safdar told Aid to Church in Need.
“Safdar’s brother filed a report with the police, and numerous protestors demanded justice be done for my husband. I pleaded with higher authorities, explaining our financial circumstances and the impact of this loss. Weeks have passed. They have done nothing—surely because we were Christians.
God is always present
“My husband was the breadwinner of the family. Since his death, I have felt alone and helpless. I myself am limited, as far as jobs go: I have asthma and no formal education and I have my son to take care of. Suddenly there is no one to help us—though our Lord Jesus Christ is always with us.
“My brother-in-law gives us some financial help, but still, we face very real hurdles. I pray that the authorities will bring us closure and that I find employment soon.
“I pray that we survive my husband’s passing. I miss him so much, but I will always be his wife and honor him by keeping his memory alive each day. In my heart, he lives.”
In 2017, Aid to the Church in Need provided $800,000 in aid to the Church in Pakistan, which included support for seminarians and living expenses for women religious, as well as for a range of pastoral programs.