Despite the fact that many churches in the UK (including Urdu Fellowships) have forgotten the attack on Shanti Nagar; well it was 16 years ago - an impassioned church in Bradford, has continued to remember the victims in prayer and charity.
On 3rd February 2013, St Andrews Methodist Church in Bradford held a 16th Anniversary service for victims of this atrocity. They have since 2005, supported the Christian village of Shanti Nagar, financially. The Shanti Nagar St Andrew's Trust is able to send £3400 per year to disenfranchised villagers living there, to support the community in the manner that they choose. The money has been used to pay wages for health workers and teachers, buy books and uniforms for children and has paid for medical treatment, including operations.
How did this commitment to a small village in Pakistan arise, you may ask? I wondered too, until I decided to visit their annual memorial service, after receiving an invite from parishioner Saleem Dutt.
Saleem a survivor of the violence described how supportive the church has been, since his arrival in the UK. When the church heard his story and of the loss that he and hundreds faced, they felt obliged to help. This small family; a husband, wife and 3 children have through their passion and desire brought change to their suffering community, through faith.
The desire to help expressed through this long term commitment is a wonderful testament to the love of God and in particular Samaritan spirit within this parish church. I for one was awed by God's mercy shown through the passion they have displayed.
Circuit Steward Martin Bashforth commented;
"On 6th February 1997, the village was attacked by a mob of Muslim extremists and its churches were destroyed and homes set on fire. Still in 2013, its Christian residents receive threatening letters and menacing visits form extremists who are seeking to force them to renounce their Christian beliefs."
He further commented;
"Other minority faiths, in Pakistan and around the world, also suffer persecution. It is not just Christians who are at risk, and our objective is to bring an end to all persecution on grounds of personal faith, no matter which religious group it is directed against."
Please Pray for the Christians of Shanti Nagar, for St Andrews Church and the Saleem Dutt family, pray for a continued blessing on all and God's continuing favour.
The Saleem Dutt family
Wilson Chowdhry with the family of Saleem Dutt
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