Pakistan: Parishioners celebrate Mass outside burned church

In Pakistan, there were tears of sadness and fear as 700 people gathered for Mass on Sunday, August 20th, outside the recently burned St. Paul’s Catholic Church.

Amid tight security, Bishop Indrias Rehmat of Faisalabad presided over Mass in the streets of Jaranwala, where last Wednesday, August 16th,  thousands of people narrowly escaped a large and violent mob.

A Christian cemetery, hundreds of Christian homes, and as many as 24 churches were targeted in the attack, which was sparked by allegations of Qur’an desecration by Christians.

After the service, a Christian community leader, who, for their safety, will not be named, said, “Most people in attendance were crying. It was a very painful time, but it was also a chance to share their sense of loss and sadness.”

Although more than 30 policemen were present, including elite forces, many people were afraid of another attack.

An ACN contact said, “Some local Muslims watched us, and they used abusive language.”

One of the churches burned in the mob violence

But other Christian leaders reported widespread concern among many Muslims, who said they were “ashamed” of what happened and wanted to help however they could. Muslim leaders are insisting that the perpetrators be punished.

An ACN contact added that many Christians returning to Jaranwala were horrified by the damage done to their homes and were sleeping on the floor without light and unable to cook food.

The Pakistani Catholic Bishops’ Conference (PCBC) reacted to this most recent case of Christian persecution with a statement calling for justice.

“The PCBC denounces this shameful act and urges the federal and provincial interim governments to take stern action against the culprits,” the bishops wrote.

The Christian community has been terrorized and frightened by a small group of miscreants, who are intent on making them believe that Christians are second-class citizens of Pakistan. We ask the government to take strong measures to protect minorities and to implement policies that can help us become a more peaceful nation and create a better society.”

In the same statement, the bishops thank many public figures for showing their solidarity with the Christian community at this time of crisis. But they also ask, “Will justice be realized? It is very sad to say that past experiences show us that nothing happens, and all is forgotten.”

For victims of the attack, the Church is providing food, hygienic products, and other household essentials.

An ACN contact on the ground said, “Many families are missing meals. They can’t even make tea They are very emotional and afraid.”

—John Pontifex