Image of desecrated church!
During a local "protest"on Friday afternoon (21st Sept), over the release of and anti-Muslim movie called "The innocence of Muslims", a mob broke into a church compound in Mardan near Pashawer, burnt down the church, and destroyed 27 homes in the church compound including the houses of two priests and the school head teacher. The mob burnt bibles and other religious artifacts including books with Islamic text and many question whether blasphemy charges will be laid against the those that have been caught.
The attack took place after the Government called a national holiday, purportedly in sympathy of protests against the film.
The national holiday meant that the 500 students that would normally have been on the premises, were away during the attack. However several school workers were severely beaten by the attackers and have had to receive hospital treatment. Local Police have confirmed around 50 arrest have been made on perpetrators of this violence.
Mr. Lazar John, a local resident spoke to our local officer Shamim Maish;
"The angry mob tried to burn a young man -Zeeshan John, who survived by the grace of God."
"The loss is estimated at more than one billion rupees," he added.
Local pastor Peter Mujeed said;
"It is normally observed that whenever any thing is said or done against the Muslims by the west, they take revenge on local [Pakistani] Christians. I wish people in the west realized how much they can make us suffer."
A local parishioner spoke to us of the fear and anxiety he is feeling;
"This attack was unwarranted our community has done nothing to deserve this treatment and punishment. Local police arrived late - they stood back and watched."
He added; "How will we worship our Lord Jesus now?"
The Mulsim mob that attacked this church are said to have been between 8000 - 10,000 strong a sizeable number, that has left many fearing that another attack is imminent. The parishioner explained:
"That so many local people could hate Christians is frightening, it makes me feel unsure about the future of my town. I remember the attack on Gojra where people were killed, I just want to protect my family and may be leaving the area."
A protest by parishioners and clergy was held on Saturday during which they called for better protection of religious places and Christian communities in Pakistan, whilst also making common cause with Muslim's by condemning the iniquitous movie.
Pakistan Ulema Council (PUC) Chairman Maulana Tahir Mahmood Ashrafi told "The News"; “The people involved in this unfortunate incident could never be taken as the followers of Islam because Islam teaches tolerance and peace and preaches respect for all other religions equally.” In a strong condemnation of the attack.
The attack has come as somewhat of a surprise by local Christians as their communities across the country have showed great empathy with Muslims, by joining them in demonstrations against the movie. Moreover the very first protest against this film in Hyderabad was lead by Christians.
Wilson Chowdhry of the BPCA said;
"The BPCA wholly condemns this movie that has created much hurt to adherents of Islam. The whole intent of this movie has been to cause schism and division amongst those of the Christian and Muslim faiths. We also however condemn the acts of the extremists in Pakistan whose very violent reaction has only served the purpose of the producers of this film. The Christian faith requires us to "Love our Brother" causing hurt like this is against our faith, it is essential that Christians and Muslim's across the globe embrace each other in an show of solidarity that we might nullify the affects of this iniquitous movie."
"Pakistani authorities must protect the innocent Christian minority in Pakistan, who are not responsible or supportive of this movie. Those that have suffered loss must receive adequate compensation and every effort should be made to restore peace in these local communities. If not, it is the movie makers who will have succeeded with their malicious desires."
The BPCA has launched a fund to assist with the reconstruction of the church and 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