Christians focus of attacks in Pakistan

By August 4, 2009

Pakistan (MNN) — Christians are again the focus of attacks in Pakistan.

Compass Direct News reports that Islamic extremists burned houses and churches in the northeastern towns of Gojra and Korian following an accusation of "blasphemy" of the Quran.

Paul Estabrooks with Open Doors says it all stemmed from a misunderstanding between a Christian wedding and a Muslim funeral in Korian. "Part of their culture and tradition is to throw currency notes and coins in the air, and the kids run and get them."

Estabrooks says, "That started the rumors that rather than currency being thrown into the air, these were cut pieces of paper from the Quran and the Christians were stamping on the pieces from the Quran."

This started Muslim mob violence, says Estabrooks. "14 Christians were killed. 50 houses and one church were burned."

According to reports, the mob opened fire indiscriminately, threw gas bombs and looted houses as thousands of frightened Christians ran for safety. They were shouting anti-Christian slogans all while police stood watching, despite pleas for protection.

The dead include women and children. Several other burn victims were unable to reach hospitals for medical care, according to the Centre for Legal Aid Assistance and Settlement (CLAAS). The attack came amid a protest by thousands of Muslim Islamists — including members of banned militant groups — that resulted in another six people dying when participants shot at police and officers responded with tear gas and gunfire.

Punjab Minister for Law Rana Sanaullah reportedly said an initial investigation of allegations of the Quran being blasphemed indicated "there has not been any incident of desecration."

Estabrooks says, "The authorities are actually blaming it on an extremist group that is actually banned in the country."

Pakistani Christians have closed schools in protest and to mourn those who were killed.

Authorities are trying to end the violence by placing more police in the region. Estabrooks there's evidence they want to do something. "The minister for minorities in the country is saying that they're going to rebuild the homes and offer some kind of assistance."

Open Doors is planning to help with this rebuilding project. "We have done much to help Christians in these kinds of situations — rebuilding and restoring their communities," says Estabrooks. "This is something that's part of our program in the area, and our people there I'm sure will be working to help that."

Your prayers and financial support will encourage fellow Christians in this trying time. Estabrooks believes, "In the long run this has the potential for evangelistic growth."

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