Pakistan- The Impact The Mob Attack Had On Christians
The following is a report from Pakistan on the impact the mob attacks had on a Christian colony last week. Please take a moment to read this report and to pray for our brothers and sisters in this country.
On the 8th of March 2013, a Christian colony was torched and completely destroyed in Pakistan’s city of Lahore. The colony lies next to one of the largest Sufi shrines in the country. Only a little further away are the cultural land marks of the city’s rich historical heritage, influenced by the Mughals and the British Raj prior to 1947. Christians, converted from Hinduism and Sikhism, have lived there in the heart of one of the busiest parts of the city for generations. The influence of the local shrine and Sufism are strong, as is the growing influence of wahabi Islam. Christians living there have become increasingly isolated from the mainstream Church and discipleship, leaving them spiritually undernourished and ignorant about their faith. Unemployment, lack of education and impoverished living conditions have marginalized them and forced them into the common profession of bootlegging alcohol for wealthy Muslims who are not allowed to purchase alcohol. Sometimes they were even compelled to offer their women as prostitutes.
Badami Bagh’s Joseph Colony lies across the road from ‘Shaikha Basti’ only a little different from the former. The residents of Shaikha Basti are mostly converts from Christianity to Islam- families who could not take the pressure and persecution. It was between these two colonies that the crisis was set off.
The news of the attacks came as a shock, but not as a surprise to the trauma counselors and pastoral care workers involved in ministry there for at least 5 years. ‘In all this time working alongside the residents we often heard them express fear over potential blasphemy accusations’ says one of the counseling team. On the 8th and 9th the team of pastoral care workers was quick to become involved in locating key workers and families in their care; ascertaining whether they were safe or not and working out how to reach them with food and clean water. ‘Thankfully the coldest of the winter is over and the heat has not yet set in at its worst’ said one of the care team members. ‘We have to be thankful for all these mercies despite all’ he says.
‘We fled for our lives; do not ask us where we are,’ a Christian teacher from Badami Bagh sobbed over the phone before it went dead that first day. All night, counselors and pastoral care workers, worked at this impossible task of locating the people in their care. People had fled without phones, chargers or computers, with only the clothes on their backs and most importantly their young daughters. They had dispersed, wherever they had family or friends who would take them in. Some had nowhere to go.
‘I told you, did I not? I told you!’ she had shrieked into the phone when the counselor finally contacted a teacher from the area. She had indeed asked for advice and trauma counseling in 2011, as Badami Bagh was becoming harder to live in by the day, particularly for Christians who chose to live for Christ. ‘In our colony everyone is born Christian,’ she had explained. ‘Only a few of us have been discipled and we pay the price for knowing who we believe in and whose name we bear.’
She spoke at length about the challenges of living for Jesus in Badami Bagh and refusing to follow old Hindu rituals. ‘This angers the Holy men because faithful Christian women in our colony do not go to their shrines any more. As a result the ‘holy men’ lose credibility. But our greater fear is this: how shall we deal with an attack or a false accusation and shall we keep a gun at home to keep us safe? I think not, but my son wants to protect his sisters,’ she said. The counselors had led her to scriptures, speaking at length of the consequences of resorting to violence. Other counselors have worked with her son and God had comforted their hearts.
It will take a long time to make sense of what has happened. The rebuilding of houses is only half the job. Care workers and Trauma Counselors suggest that the rebuilding of homes has been an enormous support to Christians. ‘But the next step is helping them reach closure; a process of learning to trust that it won’t happen next Friday, or the Friday after, and learning to forgive. But most of all, gaining confidence in the fact that they are loved and their identity is not in being infidels, in alcohol or in their Hindu roots, but in Christ.’