BACA Provides Aid and Assesses Situation in Jaranwala After Devastating Attacks on Christian Community

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London: (By Hannah Chowdhry and Juliet Chowdhry) Hundreds were fed every night at several locations as BACA volunteers worked tirelessly to serve beleaguered Christians of Jaranwala.

A shocking series of events has unfolded in Jaranwala, Pakistan, following allegations of the desecration of the Quran – read our original account with many other videos (here).

What began as accusations against two Christian brothers has escalated into a devastating wave of violence, resulting in the destruction of close to 30 churches and 100 homes.

The situation remains tense as the community grapples with the aftermath of this brutal  attack.

Even then Christians who bravely remained in the violence-riven town attended churches in their droves, praising God for sparing their lives.

The Government has now promised 2million rupee compensation packages to all those affected by the recent violence.

In the wake of the horrifying incidents that unfolded in Jaranwala, where a violent mob set ablaze to numerous homes and churches of the Christian community, the British Asian Christian Association (BACA) swiftly responded by visiting the affected areas.

The catastrophic events occurred on 19th August, leaving a trail of destruction that has deeply impacted the lives of countless individuals.

Despairing Christians sit on the streets as they assess their losses.

The list of burnt churches visited by BACA  in the area, is as follows:

 

AEC Church, Esa Nagar

 

AEC Church, Esa Nagar

 

Presbyterian Church, Esa Nagar

 

Kingdom of God Church

 

Salvation Army Church

 

Catholic Church, Nasir Colony

 

Presbyterian Church, Mahar Wala

 

Presbyterian Church, Sheherwan

 

Church of God, Komowana

 

Catholic Church, Christian Colony

 

The Salvation Army Church, Esa Nagar

 

FGA Church, Farooq Colony

 

FGA Church, Yasir Town

 

Calvary Church, Noora Colony

 

Calvary Church, Chak 240

 

The Salvation Army Church

 

Catholic Church, Esa Nagar

 

Pak Khushkhabri Church, Noora Colony

 

Amazing Grace Church, Sheherwan

 

BM Church, 120 Basti

 

The Salvation Army Church

 

An unknown Church

 

BACA’s representatives visited the Christian Colony in Esa Nagar and Nooran Colony, the areas targeted in the violent attack, to assess the situation and provide support to the affected families. In discussions with local residents, our lead officer noted that the community was gripped by fear as the enraged mob chanted slogans, including those associated with Tehrik-e-Labaik Pakistan, a radical religious group known for its extreme beliefs.

Terrified Christians, fearful of another attack, also feel despondent due to the state of their homes.

Please sign our Justice for Jaranwala petition.

The aftermath of the attack left families, including young children, spending the night outdoors in open fields, stripped of their shelters and possessions. Families have returned to find their homes and belongings destroyed, with debris scattered amidst the ruins. Outside their ravaged houses, families now sit on the streets, facing an uncertain future.

Ashiq Masih, a resident of Christian Colony, shared the extent of the devastation: “We fled to save our lives yesterday. We left everything behind. Returning today, I found my house completely destroyed. The kitchen utensils are burnt, the fans are destroyed. Replacing these items will take time.”

Afzal Masih from Esa Nagar echoed the sentiment of uncertainty among the residents. He shared, “People are still afraid of another attack. We are unsure about our safety. Only the men have returned to assess the damage to their properties.”

Despite the presence of law enforcement agencies, including the army and police, many Christians remain hesitant to return to their homes due to concerns over security. The incident’s impact remains undeniable, as individuals like Afzal Masih face the tragic reality of their homes being consumed by flames.

The immediate aftermath of the attack left families struggling to access food and basic necessities due to energy and gas cuts in the area. Responding to this urgent need, BACA distributed food to over a hundred people in Esa Nagar, over three days a gesture deeply appreciated by the affected community.

In recent developments, the police have taken commendable steps by arresting more than 128 individuals involved in the attacks on Christian homes and properties.

In a significant development, the law enforcement authorities have taken proactive steps to address the disturbing incidents in Jaranwala. A First Information Report (FIR) bearing No. 1260/23 has been officially filed against Muhammad Yaseen, an individual who issued a call to action through a mosque announcement, rallying Muslims to seek retribution for the accusations of blasphemy against Raja Amir and Raki Masih.

This FIR is comprehensive in its approach, encompassing charges against leaders of Tehrik-e-Labaik and Jamiat-e-Ahl Sunat, along with approximately 50 other individuals. The sections invoked in the FIR span a range of offenses, including terrorism, blasphemy, and violations of the loudspeaker regulations. In total, 18 sections of the Pakistan Penal Code have been included in the FIR, underlining the gravity of the situation.

The state of her home and tense situation became to much for this mother.

This proactive stance by the police exemplifies their commitment to addressing the attacks and ensuring accountability for those involved. The inclusion of terrorism-related charges underscores the severity of the incident and the resolve of the authorities to bring the perpetrators to justice.

Inspector General of Police (IG) of Punjab, Mr. Usman Sarwar, visited the affected areas, assuring full support from the Punjab Police. Initial investigations indicate that the incident was premeditated. However, criticism has emerged over the police’s perceived failure to prevent the violence despite early announcements in local mosques.

Arrests Made in Blasphemy Case Amidst Doubts Surrounding Credibility

In the midst of an ongoing investigation into allegations of blasphemy, arrests have been made that have raised concerns within the Christian community. Amir Raja and Raki Masih, individuals at the center of the case, have been taken into custody despite the glaring irregularities in the purported blasphemy charges.

Reports from the Christian community suggest that the entire debacle occurred after Saleem Masih (57 yrs) loaned 400,000 Rupees to a Muslim man to help him send his son abroad for work. Later, that Muslim reneged on his duty to repay Saleem, and he accused Saleem’s sons, Raki Masih (22 yrs) and Raja Amar (24 yrs), of blasphemy and forged papers to implicate them, all in an effort to forfeit his debt.

It is crucial to emphasize that the accusations of blasphemy against Amir Raja and Raki Masih have been widely regarded as dubious and potentially fraudulent.

Many within the Christian community are perplexed by the arrests, as the evidence provided thus far does not substantiate the grave charges leveled against them.

Police authorities have confirmed that a comprehensive investigation is underway to ascertain the facts of the case. This development comes as a source of bewilderment for many Christians who had hoped for an impartial and thorough examination of the allegations.

The arrests, coupled with the ongoing investigation, highlight the importance of due process and a fair legal system that upholds justice for all individuals involved. The Christian community, along with concerned citizens, are closely following these developments in the anticipation of a just and transparent resolution.

Chief Minister of Punjab, Mr. Mohsin Raza Naqvi, visited ALEC Church Jaranwala on August 20th, meeting with the congregation and assuring them of the government’s commitment to bring the culprits of the mob attack to justice. He announced a financial aid of 2,000,000 Rs for each affected family and pledged to rebuild the burnt churches. Victims were assured that money would be received within 48 hours.

The smell of burnt remains and the damage to property and premises mean that many houses are still uninhabitable.

Prominent voices within the affected community have begun to voice their concerns, shedding light on the unmet commitments in the aftermath of the Jaranwala attacks. A Catholic priest, Mukhtar Masih, has publicly criticized Mr. Naqvi for falling short on his assurances, particularly concerning the restoration of the damaged churches.

In a striking revelation, Father Mukhtar Masih disclosed that instead of rebuilding some of the damaged churches, the walls were merely being painted over. This discrepancy has stirred frustration within the community, who had hoped for substantial efforts to reconstruct the places of worship that were targeted.

Furthermore, Father Mukhtar Masih confirmed that all 26 churches in Jaranwala had experienced some form of attack, although not all of them were severely burnt. This comprehensive account underscores the gravity of the situation and emphasizes the need for tangible measures to restore the places of worship to their former state.

The concerns raised by Father Mukhtar Masih echo the sentiments of a community seeking justice and meaningful action to rectify the harm inflicted upon them. The entire community remains vigilant as they await the fulfillment of promises made to them.

Caretaker Prime Minister, Mr. Anwar Ul Haq Kakar, visited Jaranwala on August 21st. During his address, he condemned extremism, stressing that it does not align with any religion, language, or region. He distributed financial aid of Rs. 2,000,000 to the affected families and emphasized the government’s determination to address elements that disrupt the nation’s peace.

In the wake of the distressing events that unfolded in Jaranwala, the British Asian Christian Association (BACA) has been resolute in its commitment to providing aid and assistance to the affected families. BACA’s tireless efforts have encompassed a range of crucial support initiatives.

The organization successfully facilitated the return of 15 families who had sought refuge in Lahore back to their homes in Jaranwala. Moreover, BACA has extended its outreach by offering three nourishing meals a day to over a hundred brave Christians who opted to remain in fields and relief camps established by local churches in neighboring regions.

Dedicated volunteers from BACA worked tirelessly to ensure that these families were provided with sustenance, demonstrating unwavering solidarity during this challenging period. The commitment to ensuring that each family received hearty meals highlights BACA’s commitment to the well-being of the affected individuals.

One remarkable aspect of this entire incident is the bravery displayed by the Christian community members who either stayed or returned to their homes despite the violence. All of them attended Sunday Services in their respective churches or in the streets outside on Sunday, August 27th. This was in spite of circulating reports of a potential attack. Not a single person experienced a crisis of confidence in their faith; if anything, they all desired to express gratitude to God for preserving their lives. Churches were filled to capacity, as were the streets around the churches that had been destroyed, where open-air services were held.

BACA is allocating the remaining funds from its Jaranwala campaign to vital projects that will make a tangible difference in the lives of the residents. This includes the provision of new clothing and the establishment of clean water wells in the area. Notably, many residents had been compelled to travel considerable distances—up to two miles—to access clean water sources. We are also intending to provide shelter for the family of Raki and Raja – who have contacted us- as threats of death against them have continued.

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"Trial of Pakistani Christian Nation" By Nazir S Bhatti

On demand of our readers, I have decided to release E-Book version of "Trial of Pakistani Christian Nation" on website of PCP which can also be viewed on website of Pakistan Christian Congress www.pakistanchristiancongress.org . You can read chapter wise by clicking tab on left handside of PDF format of E-Book.

nazirbhattipcc@aol.com , pakistanchristianpost@yahoo.com