Church of the Nazarene Attacked in Pakistan
Talab Sarai (Pakistan), November 20, 2006, (SVM News): A group of Muslim youngsters of Pakistan attacked the Church of the Nazarene in Talab Sarai in District Manga Mandi on Sunday, 12th of November, 2006. According the Persecution Update, the Center for Legal Aid Assistance and Settlement (CLAAS) learned about the incident and quickly arranged a team to assist the villagers.
The team members are: 1). Patras Ghani (political activist), 2). Asif Aqeel (Research Officer), 3). Parveen Akhtar (Secretary of Patras Ghani), 4). Ashar Sarfraz (Office Assistant), 5). Haroon Suleman Khokhar (Advocate, from Talita Qumi), 6). Sunila Ruth (Coordinator Women Synodical, Raiwind Diocese) and 7). Sara Shehzad.
The villagers are mostly the brick kiln workers. The team learned that there are about 40 Christian families living in the town. The kiln owners force them to work on Sabbath, so the church service is held in the evening from 6-8 pm. In addition to being a place of worship, the church also serves a variety of other purposes. For example, it is a school for the Christian children and in the evening adult education classes are held there. Persecution Update describes the Life in the Village.
The Christian families are often besieged by Muslim’s who threaten and bully them. Two Muslim families live just 50 feet from the church and often sit outside their home, drinking and talking. They relentlessly harass church members as they come and go from the church; young girls are especially susceptible to attacks and harassment.
Sadiq Masih, an old man about 70 years old, said that life as a Christian in Talab Sarai was very difficult. He said, “These Muslims tether their animals in front of the church gate and in the Christian graveyard, they do pigeon-flying on the church roof, even tease the bypassing Christian girls.” He also mentioned that last Christmas during worship, a young man named Amir, threw fireworks into the church which caused a stampede and mass confusion among the congregation. This incident was resolved by talks between the police and the villagers.
At about 6:00 p.m. on November 13th, the team reached Manga Mandi and went directly to the Church of the Nazarene. There were many Christians gathered waiting for the team to arrive. Pastor Rafiq Masih, who is in charge of the church, described the incident. In the initial assessment of the damage, the team found that the outer cross at the gate was broken and tube lights were smashed. Many pelted bricks and stone were lying in the compound.
“Every week we make two men stand at the church gate to assist those who come to attend the worship service. On the day of the occurrence, Haroon Masih and Ashraf Masih were standing at the gate. It was at about 6:00 pm and beginning to get dark when 8 Muslim boys, Asif and Zulifiqar and six others, in a drunken stupor, approached the church gate. They began uttering filthy words in tune with the worship songs being sung by the congregation. Haroon and Ashraf came forward to stop the boys from making fun of the church singing. Simultaneously, a few girls were harassed by the inebriated boys as they entered the church. Haroon and Ashraf intervened to protect the girls, which further provoked Asif, Zulifiqar and their friends. Several church members came to the gate, and the Muslim boys quickly left.” Pastor Rafiq Masih told.
When the worship meeting came to an end, Asif and Zulifiqar returned with more friends whom they had called from the Chiragh Factory where they worked. They all were drunk, and equipped with firearms and clubs. Asif’s mother, Wallayat Bibi, a notorious woman, was also with them. Sadiq Masih, a church member, said that Wallayat Bibi was a woman of bad character and had acquaintances with many men of the area. She has been known to hurl insults at the Christians and in the past she attempted to rally the villagers to attack the church. She, along with the drunkards, started calling Ashraf derogatory names. They attempted to assault him but his fellow church members came to his aid. At that time, the church meeting was stopped and the entire congregation came out to the front gate. The Muslims continued to berate the Christians, insulting them and criticizing their worship. Pastor Rafiq told his congregation not to engage the mob and to say nothing.
As this matter was going on, Pastor Rafiq Masih called the naib-Nazim Khalid Javed to help them with this problem. He also called fathers of Asif and Zulifiqar, and asked them to come to his house. When, the boys and Wallayat Bibi left, the men of the congregation joined the pastor at naib-Nazim Khalid Javed’s house. As the meeting for compromise was going on, the pastor was informed that Asif, Zulifiqar and their accomplices had attacked the church with bricks and stones. The naib-Nazim said that compromise was futile and called the police. A patrolling police squad reached the church immediately and the vandals fled the scene.
Then Wallayat Bibi came out of her home and invited the police in. The police went with her and when they came out the Christians tried to tell them that she was the mother of the main culprits, but they refused to listen and arrested three young Christian boys. The police squad took those arrested children to the house of naib-Nazim and later released them. Since the incident there have been no talks between the aggrieved church members and the attackers.
After fully assessing the damage to the church and interviewing many villagers, the team went to the Manga Mandi Police Station. The team immediately prepared an application to lodge a First Incident Report (FIR) and submitted it with the duty officer, Allah Ditta. After submitting the application, they were told that the FIR could not be registered due to the absence of the SHO. The team returned the next day to attempt to re-submit the FIR.
The two Muslim families who are living among these Christians stir-up a lot of trouble and dissention in the village. They sexually harass the Christian girls, desecrate the church building and the Christian graveyard, bully the men, and make fun of Christian religious sentiments. The local law enforcement agencies haven’t defended the Christians or protected the church and now the situation has gone from bad to worse.