Christians in Mardan worship using a tent as a makeshift church after an arson attack by a Muslim mob razed their church to the ground.
Islamabad Pakistan - Shamim Masih travelled to Mardan, despite risk of highway robbery on a BPCA funded trip to uncover the truth behind the recent attack and two bishops squabbling over funds to assist the church. He wrote;
Mardan Church was burnt ten days back by a large extremist mob of Muslims, incensed by the anti-Islam movie. Since then Christians live their under significant psychological fear.
Many organizations and government officials have visited the area but nothing has been done to re-compensate this small community. Moreover the victims have expressed concern that no punitive action has been taken against the perpetrators by these officials.
The cumulative affect of the attack and impunity for perpetrators is the onset of insecurity and despondency amongst victims.
When we reached there today (Sunday 30th September 2012), we discovered a protest has been called by the religious party “Jimat-e-Islami” (rigid Islamic political party and involved in activities against Christians). When this takes place on Tuesday we are expecting another attack on this community and have made Police aware.
Government officials including Ikram Gill (Minister for National Harmony) has visited this community but no practical measure has been put in place to restore their lives to normality.
On Sunday early morning at 0600 our group funded by the British Pakistani Christian Association (BPCA), started its journey towards Mardan. When we reached at the 75 years old Sarhadhi Lutheran Church, we were shocked to see the level of destruction. It seemed like the Gojra incident had been repeated again.
We were surrounded by burnt furniture, clothes, and religious books. There were a few men, women and children gathered under the open sky attempting to perform their religious service, but they were all visibly frightened and perturbed visitors they had not seen before.
We explained who we were and fortunately Bishop Peter Majeed shared time with us and explained the whole story behind the incident.
According to Bishop Peter Majeed, the said Lutheran church was built in 1937 by Bishop James Christian, who built this church in memory of his son, who journeyed her to preach among pathans but was killed by radical Muslims.
Mardan district consists of one million people and Christians are only 30,000, who are in the main manual worker mostly, he told us.
He further added;
"The date 21st September 2012 is unforgettable for the Christians of Mardan, it was the day when angry Muslims attacked our tiny Christian community in our Church compound. Whilst the attack ensued, the security guard provided by Government officials ran away, leaving us to face the anger of the mob."
He described the attack;
"More than three thousand Muslims attacked the Church, they were fully equipped with kerosene oil that they had brought with them - this was pre-meditated and not a riot that descended into violence!! They then started shooting at buildings and people. They stoned our church, desecrated our alter, tore copies of the Bible and prayer books and later put everything in to a large fire. Rioters set the church and school on fire and looted every valuable item. Once the mob started the attack, we believed they would not spare our lives, we were forced to run outside and away from the town via a back door."
.Jimmy Mathew, the church secretary said;
"After the attack, police registered a First Investigation Report (FIR), but protection for our community is scarce. Children are frightened they can’t sleep properly since it happened. All the Christian community living here feel insecure and uncertain about their future. We were taken by surprise as we did nothing to warrant the attack, this rage meted against us is unjust. They can come to loot us after the name of their prophet was insulted by others - why us?"
He demanded the rebuilding of the church and school as soon as possible and called for better security for their community. He requested the apex court to take sumo-to action against the culprits.
Saadia Manwer, a Sunday school teacher seems worried about the alarming situation. She said;
"10 days have passed and no harmony development is visible. We have provided healthcare, education and substantial support to the local community, regardless of peoples religious affiliation since independence - this is a slap in the face. Now we find we are under threat of attacks all the time. How can we prevent them [Muslims] of doing this."
She called for increased interfaith dialogue at grass roots level.
Elizabeth James a social worker from Abboatabad, she came to show her solidarity with Christians of the Mardan. She said;
"The time has come to draw margin lines between these clashes. They [Muslims] always react in the name of Islam, while we tolerate? For how long will they keep playing with our sentiments. Forcedconversions, blasphemy laws and looting valuable goods for the sake of their prophets name is too much now, it should be ended - people should be punished!"
We also met Faiz ullah Jan who was among the protesters, he told us;
"There was a call from all religious parties that the the mob was on the way shouting against America, suddenly they attacked our church and turned it into ashes. what they did was not good or humanitarian!" he declared.
We also met Javaid Khan a local journalist, who had some footage of the incident, he said;
"On that day, the mob also burnt the Telenor office, (Norway company providing cellular services here) and another school here. I have the footage and my camera was also damaged during the coverage. I can produce it if the government is serious about taking action against those people who were involved in it."
Shamim Masih concluded;
"Shanti nagar, Sangla Hill, Gojra and now Mardan Church have been burnt down, these are all unforgettable stories, there is a need to make stronger legislation against such attacks and to get police authorities to responder quicker and more urgently to enact the rule of law to protect innocent minorities. For how long, will minorities keep on suffering!"
Wilson Chowdhry Chairperson for the BPCA said;
"It is deplorable that two Bishops can be at odds over the authority over this church. While Parishioners believe Bishop Peter Majeed has authority Pakistani Christian Channels based in the UK claim authority belongs to the Bishop of Peshawer an Anglican Bishop - without thought to actually investigate. Whoever is responsible for the Church Bishop Peter is very hands on with this community and his efforts to revive the church at which he lives seem genuine. Irrespective of this our BPCA funds collected for this church will be distributed directly to those families in need, to support restoration and to pay for the security this community deserves after such an awful attack. We call on people with a heart for giving to support this community who have lost much through no fault of their own."
See pictures of destruction below our appeal!
The BPCA has launched a fund to assist with security for this community and aid for the occupants of the homes looted and burnt in this attack, if you would like to contribute please use the details below:
"Mardan Church Fund" (Please use the fund name as a reference) you can pay several ways;
Pay by using the PayPal facility on the top right hand corner of our blog and electronic means of transfer will be initiated when you click donate written in the yellow oval.
You can also send your contributions by cheque payable to;
British Pakistani Christian Association.
Address : British Pakistani Christian Association
57 Green Lane
Alternatively should you wish you can pay by BACS, direct debit or standing order by paying into the following account details:
Sort Code: 20-67-90
Account Number: 63468976
Some of the residual religious books burnt in the fires initiated by rioters.
Burnt religious books highlighted the thoughtless actions of mindless hooligans.
Awful scenes of destruction were a vivid illustration of the animosity towards Christians.
Shamim interviewing Bishop Peter during a tour of the damaged property.
Shamim Masih interviewing a sunday school teacher
Shamim with the children living in the compound who escaped during the attack.
Azhar Jatoi questioning a school teacher who lived in the compound
Shamim with Bishop Peter Majeed during the visit
A surviving church bell still announces church services for local parishioners - although now held in a tent.
Bishop Peter described the awful incident.
Local people feel very despondent - there is immense repair required to restore their buildings.
Buildings were smashed by riotous revellers!
Partially burnt clothes left after a home was looted.
Shamim Masih holds a Burnt bible this caused him much grief.
Group Photo; Azhar Jatoi, Shamim Masih and Bishop Peter Majeed