On Sunday 7 August, hundreds of Christian families in Lahore fled their homes when they saw a large Muslim mob marching towards their church building. Police intervention saved the only church in the area and averted a potential attack on the Christians’ houses.
Pastor Gulzar Gill, who leads the Presbyterian church in Karim Nagar, Daroghawala, Lahore, reported that at about 1.30 pm he was informed that hundreds of Muslims were marching toward his church, chanting slogans against Christians.
He said, “Instantly, I rushed towards the church, where already hundreds of people had gathered and were chanting slogans against Christians and pro Islam. They seem very agitated and eager to attack the church, and it seemed difficult to control the mob.
“Fortunately, after a few minutes the police had also arrived and immediately engaged the Muslim leader Hafiz Aslam, who was leading the mob. I informed the police that I am the priest-in-charge of this church and not aware what had happened.
“The police said the mob was furious about a programme that took place in the church on Saturday. It was a youth seminar and people had misunderstood the topic ‘False Prophets’, which was considered sacrilegious. I told the police that it was a youth seminar, and we had no intention to hurt anyone’s feelings. I apologised on behalf of everyone if inadvertently we had hurt anyone’s feelings.
“The police acted very wisely, engaged the Muslim leaders and asked them to tell the mob to leave peacefully. Later on, the mob slowly started to disperse and that was a big relief for me and other Christians.”
The police then called local Christian and Muslim leaders, including Pastor Gulzar Gill, Hafiz Aslam, Imam Tanveer Madni and lay leader Chaudhry Bhola Masih, to sign an agreement and maintain peace in the area.
Chaudhry Bhola Masih said that the Presbyterian church is the only church in an area that has about 250 Christian families. Most of the families have lived there for years and have never experienced such a situation before.
“When we saw the mob starting to gather, everyone was concerned and scared,” he said. “Many of us have sent our wives and children away to our relatives and they are not coming back until we believe the situation is completely back to normal and there is no more threat of attack on our houses and to our lives.”
He said that although the Muslim and Christian leaders have signed an agreement in the presence of the police, Christians are still living in fear and that it would take time to restore the situation to normal. He added, “Unfortunately, hatred and discrimination against Christians and other religious minorities continues to grow and the government has failed to address and control the situation and instead introduces policies which promote hate directly and indirectly against Christians and this is making religious minorities’ life hell in Pakistan. They are living in fear and worried about their children’s future.”
(Centre for Legal Aid, Assistance & Settlement-UK, Edge Foundation)