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Pakistan: ‘They piled up Bibles and hymn books and set them on fire’

Pakistan is home to over two million Christians. A small number of the Christians in Pakistan are Orthodox. Orthodox Christians in Pakistan are under the spiritual jurisdiction of the Orthodox Metropolitanate of Singapore and South Asia, which comprises all the Orthodox Communities, Parishes, Foundations and Philanthropic Projects in Singapore, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Afghanistan, Brunei, Timor, Maldives, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Sri Lanka, as well as Pakistan.

For previous coverage of the persecution of Christians in Pakistan, see here.

“’They piled up Bibles and hymn books and set them on fire’ – three stories from Pakistan attacks,” Open Doors, September 6, 2023:

Last month, thousands of Muslim extremists brought devastation to Christians in Jaranwala, Pakistan, by attacking more than 20 churches and almost a hundred homes in response to allegations that two believers had desecrated the Quran. The three stories below highlight the horror experienced by some of the victims. The awful incident has affected more than 1,600 people – thank you for your continued prayers and support for them….

Betrayal, burnt Bibles and ‘blind hate’

For 50-year-old Asad*, church was not just part of his weekly routine, but also his daily routine – that was until the devastating events of 16 August. 

On that day, just like any other day, he had flatbread, curry and tea, before taking his daughter to the bus stop where he made the sign of the cross on her forehead before she headed to college. On his way back, he stopped by his church, a 1,500-square-foot space on which a tent stood that was owned by a cluster of families. He swept the tent, spent time in prayer and returned to his nearby home.

It was then that he heard loud angry screams. “The mob is coming, and they are angry!” said locals as they fled the area, but not Asad. “My daughter will come home from college,” he said. “If she doesn’t know and she comes home, I want to be here for her. I can’t leave my home.”

Asad ran up to the roof and hid behind a derelict wall. From there, he could see his church as well as another nearby church. “I saw them immediately target the church in the next street,” he recalls. “They took anything that could be sold and loaded it onto trucks. They then poured acid over the items. I saw them trample the crosses and Bibles. I saw them throw the Bibles out onto the street and jump on them. It looked like they had no sense at all – just blind hate. They poured fuel from their petrol bombs, lit the Bibles on fire, and watched them burn, only walking away when satisfied.”

Asad was grateful that his church remained untouched. “They did not recognise it as a Christian space,” he says. But then he saw one of his Muslim neighbours call the mob back. “They came back, pulled down our beautiful precious tent of prayer and worship, and threw it all to the fire.”

Asad stayed hidden behind the wall for the entire day. Fear grew when his daughter didn’t return when she normally did. “Where is she? Why is she so late? Did something happen to her?” He eventually heard her voice call out to him. She had come from her auntie’s home, which is where she went after hearing about the attacks.

“Today, I have nothing,” Asad continues. “I saw my house and my place of worship burn in front of my eyes. I was helpless. I saw my neighbours betray us. We have never done them any harm; we always respected them. Then why? Why did they become part of an agenda that was so anti-Christian? What about my daughter? What will become of her?”…

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