Pakistani officials have banned 11 Christian television channels, leaving the country's 2.8 million Christians with no public media presence for the first time in nearly two decades.
According to India Today, the Pakistani Media Regulatory Authority this week banned the religious stations after accusing them of being "illegal" and "not having permission" to broadcast. The outlet notes that most pro-Christian channels in Pakistan are based abroad since because PEMRA does not release licenses for religious broadcasting, and only allows the airing of Christian messages for Christmas and Easter.
Father Morris Jalal, who founded the now-illegal Catholic TV, condemned the ban and urged the national community to speak out against what he referred to as a "sweeping attack on religious freedom".
"As citizens, Christians have the right to practice their religion, but if they block you, it means not all citizens are equal," he said, according to Express UK. ""We must protest this decision, and we hope the West does it as well."
Father Mushtaq Anjum claimed the action, which made "the proclamation of the good news illegal," was a "discriminatory law that affects non-Muslims".
Pakistan, the world's second largest Muslim country, is ranked #6 on the Open Doors 2016 World Watch List of the worst persecutors of Christians, and has received the maximum score in the violence category.
In addition to implementing laws intended to restrict the freedom of believers, Pakistan enforces severe blasphemy laws, which have led to the lynching and jailing of increasing numbers of falsely accused Christians.
Recently, Archbishop Sebastian Shaw of Lahore - the city where 42 adult Christians and 30 children were killed in a suicide blast while celebrating Easter last March - said that Christians were being wrongly accused of blasphemy at a rate of about one every two weeks.
"The blasphemy law is being misused against Christians and that must stop," he said, and emphasized that bause Christians should not repay "evil with evil," the solution to ongoing persecution against believers was dialogue with the Muslim majority.
Speaking at an Oct. 11 meeting, hosted by the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, the Archbishop revealed that he and other Christians recently met with senior Muslim scholars and imams in the hope of achieving change.
"We explained that they (the meetings) were not to convert anybody and it was not about a Western agenda, but to learn from one another - what you believe and what we believe," Archbishop Shaw said, according to The Catholic Register.
"This is the beginning," he said. "But one thing is vital for this type of dialogue, and that is we should know what we believe. We must know who Christ is and what his teachings are."