“Convert to Islam or die!”, shouted the mob outside his home.
Frightened, Mehnga and his family did the only thing they could do: pray. Soon, their prayers were answered. Managing to flee their home, they hid in the long grass as they watched homes in their village of Korian go up in flames.
The violence in Korian began when a boy had allegedly cut up pages of an Arabic textbook that contained words from the Qur’an. The cut-up pages were used as confetti at a Christian wedding. But apparently, Muslims already had a long-standing grudge with the boy’s father, and some speculate that the incident at the wedding may have been an opportunity to snatch the Christians’ land, which had become valuable since the government had apportioned it between the Muslims and Christians years earlier.
The area mosque announced that Christians had disgraced the Qur’an and Muslims should kill them. One pastor said that the mosque was calling them to come with their weapons and was threatening to burn Christians’ homes. Armed with guns and explosives, the mob quickly grew to 800. Witnesses say some of the attacker included members of radical organizations linked to the Taliban and al-Qaeda.
But the terror did not end at Korian’s borders. Two days later in the neighboring village of Gojra, the growing mob attacked. Mosque loudspeakers fanned the flames of violence proclaiming, “Kill the American dogs!”.
Christians cried out for help from police, but only a small number responded and were no match for the well-armed attackers. When more police arrived, the mob opened fire on the Christians’ protectors.
In a matter of hours, a hundred homes were burned, and seven Christians were killed — burned alive.
Among the dead were Walter Masih’s wife, grown daughter and her unborn child. “We are very scared”, he said. “These people can attack again whenever they want. We can do nothing — only believe in Jesus. We have a strong trust in Him”.
Christians in Pakistan are well-acquainted with violence and injustice. Though their nation was founded in 1947 on the promise of equal rights to religious minorities, they are treated as second class citizens, often doing the most menial jobs. Many are street-sweepers and brick-kiln workers, with young girls working for Muslim employers, some of whom have beaten and raped them. Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, contained in section 295 of the penal code, have made it criminal for insulting Islam, Mohammed, and the Qur’an. These laws have often been used against Christians to settle personal grievances.
Many Christians are not without hope or forgiveness. One pastor who has rebuilt a church destroyed in the Korian attack said, “I pray for the Muslim attackers who destroy our houses. We cannot fight them, because Jesus said forgive your enemies”.
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