The walls are rising on the first Orthodox Church building in Pakistan. The Church is built through the support of the Orthodox Christian Mission Center (OCMC).
On Saturday, March 9, 2013 a crowd of Muslim Pakistanis attacked a small Christian neighborhood known as the St. Joseph Colony in the city of Lahore, Pakistan. This was shortly after an incident earlier in the week, when one Muslim resident had accused another Christian resident of blasphemy against Muhammad after the two had engaged in a dispute. The police arrested the Christian accused of blasphemy on Friday, and the mob action took place the next day.
The secular press (including the New York Times) reported this incident, using Pakistani government supplied figures of 178 houses, 18 shops, and 2 churches damaged by the fires that the mob started. Some news reports carried estimates of the mob size as approximately 2,000 to 3,000. What they failed to report – obviously because the government did not supply these figures – is much more disturbing.
Fr. John Tanveer is a Pakistani Eastern Orthodox priest who lives in Lahore. While he does not live in the St. Joseph Colony, a few of his parishioners do, and they lost their homes. He visited the area the next day, and has been returning almost daily to try to bring some comfort and aid to those affected. His reports are based on his own personal observation, as well as many interviews with the residents of the Colony about what they experienced. Here are some of the facts that he has reported.
- The number of homes destroyed is at least 350, or about twice the size of the government estimate.
- The residents estimated the crowd at over 5,000, again approximately double the numbers used by the press.
- Residents stated that the entire operation was very well planned and deliberate, not a case of a peaceful demonstration getting out of hand.
- Residents report that chemicals of some sort (perhaps gasoline?) were used to start and fuel the fires. If you look at the photos, you will notice that the structures in the Colony are all brick and stone. Thus, a single fire or a few fires would not have spread to decimate hundreds of buildings without the widespread use of artificial accelerants.
- The police told residents in the Colony the previous day (Friday) that they should leave the area. This clearly indicates that the government was aware of the planned mob action, and wanted to minimize the loss of life.
- During the mob violence, the police were present in small numbers, and took no action to stop the rampage.
The St. Joseph Colony is located on land near a number of industrial sites including steel and iron-making plants. It is well-known that these industries would like more land to expand their operations, and many residents believe that is why the entire incident took place – to force the Colony residents to abandon their homes leave the area.
Fr. John states that neither the government nor any of the large international humanitarian NGO’s have responded with any significant aid. He has been preparing and bringing food to the St. Joseph Colony every day, but his parish does not have the funds and resources to give the sort of aid that will be needed to care for these displaced residents and help them rebuild.
Please consider making a tax deductible contribution to help. This is an all-volunteer effort so there are no administrative costs – every dollar sent goes straight to Fr. John who will use it to provide food and other assistance to the St. Joseph Colony residents. Donations may be made by mail or Paypal as stated on the website. Please pray for these displaced fellow believers, and please pray for Fr. John, his wife Rosy, and their three children as they minister in the name of Christ.
Please forward the link to this article to others you know that may be willing to pray for and consider assisting these fellow Christians in their time of great need.
Pictures from Fr. John
Click to enlarge
LAHORE PAKISTAN: More than 100 houses belonging to the Christian community were vandalized and burnt by a mob of muslims in Badami Bagh area of Lahore on Saturday over alleged blasphemy committed by a Christian man. More than 35 Christians were injured.
Several houses were attacked and hundreds Christian families were forced to flee the area. There was advance notice of this attack within the government of Pakistan and that no action was taken to stop it.
Fr. John Tanveer spent a full day today (Tuesday) in this neighborhood, and says it is just absolutely devastated. Eyewitnesses there say that the incident was actually much worse than reported in the media. The whole incident seemed very well planned, and he says there were over 5,000 in the mob. They used some sort of chemical (perhaps gasoline?) to start the fires.
The residents say that police were in the area but did nothing to intervene. He counted about 350 houses destroyed, far more than the official count of 178. So far the government has not provided any relief for these families.
The community is a poor one, near a lot of factories and industry. The residents are primarily Christian, both Protestants and Catholics. Fr. John is distressed because there has not yet been any response from any Christain NGO’s.
From Fr. John Tanveer
Dear Supporter of the Orthodox Church in Pakistan,
Since this morning I was with the victims. I tried to visit each and every house. They are attacked by 5 to 6 thousand peoples mob with weapons and a dangerous chemical which they thew into their houses,which burnt each and everything. There is left nothing.
So much cruelty is seen that they felt no pity for a dog and a parrot in his cage. They had no pity for a faithful dog and a beautiful parrot. I am really finished after visiting the people ant their properties.
Muslims always come together to support one another worldwide but we Christians enjoy and think of ourself as selfish people. They are one but we are all divided and broken into many different parts.
O Lord my God, please, give us courage so that we may come together without prejudice and hatred.
Why are we accused? The answer is that we are Christians among the majority of Muslims.
Please, remember our country in your prayers especially the victims who lost all because of being Christians.
Pictures from Fr. John
Click to enlarge
His Eminence Metropolitan Konstantinos of Singapore and South Asia made his first pastoral visit to Pakistan in April.
More than 250 Orthodox faithful gathered to greet His Eminence in Wazirabad, on the site of the OMP’s newly purchased land. Photos of his visit are below.
The OMP is blessed to have recently purchased a plot of land in Wazirabad, in northeast Pakistan. OMP plans to build its first physical church on the land. The purchase was made possible through the generous support of an anonymous donor to the Orthodox Christian Mission Center.
God willing construction of the church will begin this summer. Below are some photos of Fr. John on the site.
Click image to enlarge.
Orthodox Pakistan is delighted to launch its new website! We created this site to raise awareness of and support for the Orthodox Mission in Pakistan. We welcome your comments and suggestions. We hope that the site answers your questions about the OMP, its mission and ministries.
We thank you for your support!