Twenty-four hours ago, I began to receive reports of a major attack on Christians in the Pakistan village of Korian, near Faisalabad. As is normal in the hours following such acts of violence, getting a clear picture of what happened has been difficult. What I can tell you for sure is that several dozen Christian homes were burned to the ground after a Muslim mob received a report that pages from the Qur'an were desecrated during a Christian wedding ceremony on July 26. Those accused, Mukhtar Masih, Talib Masih and his son Imran Masih, denied any knowledge of the act but local Muslims filed a blasphemy complaint against them anyway. As local Muslims gathered on the evening of July 30, incited by broadcasts from neighbourhood mosques, a mob was whipped up who went on a rampage and began burning Christian homes and livestock. There were earlier reports of women and children being burned but this has not been confirmed. There have also been reports that two church buildings were damaged in the rioting. For a considerable time police were unable to intervene as protestors blocked the roads. At last report, the only arrests being actively pursued are those of the three Christians whom local Muslims blame for provoking them to violence.
As per usual, the response of the Pakistani government is to offer financial compensation to those who suffered property loss in the riots. This will, undoubtedly, be of some comfort to those affected. But how does one compensate for the terror of hearing your neighbours braying for your blood, calling down the divine approval of Allah for their inexcusable barbarity and setting ablaze all of your earthly possessions? How can one compensate for living with the insecurity that comes from knowing that you, your loved one, or one of your Christian neighbours could possibly be accused at any time by your neighbours of committing so-called acts of blasphemy by those who have no qualms about taking justice into their hands and taking out their rage on every Christian in sight? And who can commit acts of terror of their neighbours, in most cases, with impunity?
If the Pakistani government is the least bit serious about protecting the rights of religious minorities, those responsible for committing yesterday’s acts of violence should be rounded up and charged to the full extent of the law. I urge you to write to Mr Shahbaz Bhatti, Minister of Minority Affairs, urging him to do act quickly and decisively to guarantee that this kind of action takes place. As a Christian rights activist prior to his becoming a government minister, he insisted on such actions. Urge him to so act now that he has the authority to do so.
We will undoubtedly update you more on this incident as time goes on. Please remember to pray for the many families who have been and will continue to be impacted by this violence for many days ahead. Our partners in Pakistan have already been to the scene and we will learn more, I am sure, in the following days about what actually happened and how we might be able to help. But please pray.
Perhaps you might like to post a specific prayer for these families on our Persecuted Church Prayer Wall. Let our persecuted brothers and sisters in Pakistan and around the world know that they have not been forgotten.