WASHINGTON, D.C. May 26, 2009. International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that a historic church in a secure area of northwest Pakistan was ransacked and vandalized the night of May 11.
Rev. Ijaz Masih, the pastor of St. George Grecian Church in Bannu Cantt, told ICC that he had presided over a beautiful Sunday service on May 10. On the morning of May 12, however, laborers who were working to renovate the church were shocked when they arrived and found the church's cross broken in pieces, the altar demolished and partially burned, Bibles and hymnbooks burned and torn apart, and the pews reduced to ashes. The attackers even ransacked the bathrooms and cemented over a plaque inscribed with the names of the donors responsible for the original construction of the building.
Local Christians were astounded that the attackers could sneak into the church and vandalize it without being noticed by anyone in the neighborhood. They are especially concerned because the church is located within a military zone and thus is considered to be in a very secure location.
Rev. Ijaz told ICC that he had started as the pastor of St. George Church two years ago, and that the Christians in Bannu Cantt had been living peacefully with their Muslim neighbors. Rev. Ijaz believes that the attack was carried out by radical Muslims linked to the Taliban or Al Qaeda with the goal of provoking a clash between local Christians and Muslims.
A Christian advocacy group in Pakistan, the Center for Legal Aid, Assistance, and Settlement (CLAAS), reported that even though police have registered the attack, they are not investigating it as they would if the attack had been on a mosque.
Jeremy Sewall, ICC's Advocacy Director, said, "Please pray for the members of St. George, that God would give them courage in the midst of this frightening situation. This attack clearly shows that Muslim radicals continue to operate with impunity in Pakistan."