Sharia law will start to take effect in Malakand district, Pakistan next Monday, causing many to fear that the region, known to be a haven for terrorists, will slip deeper into extremism.
Starting on March 16, two appellate Shariatic courts will be in charge of justice in the Malakand area, according to AsiaNews. Included in the region is Swat Valley, an area that has had a surge in extremist activities, including beheadings, burning of girls schools and assaulting security forces, in recent months.
In an effort to stop the violence, the local government of the North-West Frontier Province had conceded to local Muslim leaders to allow sharia law to reign in the region in exchange for the terrorists to cease their attacks.
The local Muslim leaders have intimate ties to local terrorists, including one leader who previously led a band of men to fight alongside the Taliban in Afghanistan against the U.S.-led coalition.
Christian leaders have voiced their concerns about the likely danger of radical and violent Islamism that could arise from the sharia agreement.
A Christian leader from Pakistan's NWFP (whose name was withheld for security reasons) told U.K.-based Barnabas Fund that the Taliban are trying to enforce their interpretation of Islam on the whole country.
"That is why the religious minorities fear for their safety and their future," he said.
Some Christians in Pakistan, he said, are desperate to blend in for safety reasons, and are beginning to dress like Muslims and Christian men are growing beards to look like Muslims.
"Please pray at this time for the Christian minority in Pakistan, especially those in the North West Frontier Province, where the Taliban are gaining increasing power and enforcing an extreme version of sharia (Islamic law)," said Dr. Patrick Sookhdeo, international director of Barnabas Fund, in a statement.
"Sharia is inherently biased against non-Muslims and also prescribes the death sentence for Muslims who choose to follow Christ," said Sookhdeo, a former Muslim. "The position of the Christian community is increasingly vulnerable. They need your prayers."
Pakistan's population is 97.6 percent Muslim, 1.7 percent Christian, and 1.5 percent Hindu.