Pakistan (MNN) – On Sunday an FMI church was attacked during its worship service in Lahore, Pakistan. At Pastor Asad’s church, 100 people were gathered when 12 men attempted to illegally seize the church property.
“They wanted to use sheer force to say we are now occupying this land and it is ours. It was intended to instill a lot of fear and traumatize the congregation,” Bruce Allen with FMI says.
Preparation Brought Prevention
However, this story is a double-edged sword. On one side is the heartache of persecution, but on the other is the incredible providence of a faithful God. In the last several months FMI has put security measures in place to prepare for attacks like this. Along with installing security equipment at FMI support churches, FMI also provided security training.
“We had met with the volunteers from congregations that were becoming trained to be the security detail for their churches. We met with the pastors and gave them training about evacuations and lines of communication, and prevention of attacks, and all sorts of things,” Allen says.
This training was put into action on Sunday when security detail identified attackers and prevented them from reaching the sanctuary. Allen says most of the “scuffle” happened outside of the actual church building. No damage or harm was done to either the building or the worshippers.
Corruption Against Christians
The police who responded to the church attack made commitments to investigate. They detained Pastor Asad and the church elders at the police station for six hours. Then on Monday, when the pastor returned to the police station with the FMI National Director for Pakistan, the police refused to fulfill their promise to investigate.
“It was evident that the assailants had actually paid the police a bribe to not investigate. And the police are just dragging their heels on the situation and said they refuse to investigate unless a court compels them to do so,” Allen says.
But if the case is taken to court, it is likely the judges and others on the case will be corrupt as well. Also, the church would need to hire a lawyer who is willing to represent an oppressed and marginalize minority—a difficult find in Pakistan. Furthermore, the lawyer fees could cost upwards of $5,000.
Allen says this attack does highlight a challenge Christians face in the country. Corruption is common in Pakistan and as a minority, Christians are often targeted for land-grabbing.
Allen describes land-grabbing as “theft of real estate and done by bribes, coercion, physical force, [and] forged documents.” People who land-grab sometimes gain their information from local authorities through bribes to discover what properties belong to Christians, other minorities, widows, or even a landlord who does not live in the area.
“Sometimes the land grabbers will make forged documents such as the title deed, and present them to the court as if they’re authentic, but they’re not. Then the court, especially if they see that, oh, this land, you know, Christians are using it, awards it to the Muslims. Judges are known to take bribes as well,” Allen says.
Pastor Asad was the victim of a land-grabbing attack four years ago. Land-grabbers came to his home and physically forced pastor Asad and his extended family out, rendering them homeless. Allen says when Pastor Asad went to the police, they refused to investigate or bring charges against the attackers.
Land-grabbing has been used as a way to force religious conversion. Allen says that he recently received a report that a group of mosque leaders forced about 40 Christian families to convert to Islam. The leaders had threatened to illegally confiscate their homes and even kill the families. Through conversion, the families were able to hold onto their property.
“It really is a difficult situation for Christians regarding property, whether it’s their own homes, or it’s their worship site, it’s their church. Many will say no, we don’t convert to Islam, we remain true to the gospel, and sometimes like in pastors Asad’s by sheer physical violence, he is evicted from his own premises,” Allen explains.
Faith in God, Not in Man
The Joshua Project reports 0.7 percent of the population are professing Christians. Despite having constitutional rights as citizens, Christians are often intimidated and discriminated against by the majority population
“Christians really feel like they have no recourse and no reason to rely on the government or the authorities. We’ve already seen from our own past experiences, judges being bribed, judges allow[ing] weapons in the courtroom to attack Christians,” Allen says.
But even with the discouragement of a country that has turned on its own people, there is a sense of something greater going on in Pakistan than what man could ever accomplish alone.
“The Christians really say, all we have left is the body of Christ, who will intercede for us before the throne of the one who is sovereign over all the nations. They really just rely on God to continue to protect them and allow them to engage in Christian activity, and worship and fellowship,” Allen says.
On the same day the attack against the church in Lahore was unfolding, Allen says he also received reports of baptisms in the country with other FMI partners. In a sense, ministry in Pakistan is a rollercoaster of intense joy and extreme heartache, and God is present and faithful through both.
Will You Pray?
Will you faithfully be the body of Christ to our brothers and sisters in Pakistan? If yes, start by praying. Pray for Pastor Asad’s wisdom, his elders, and a congregation that has been traumatized by this experience. Pray that these church leaders would remember their FMI security training and put it into practice.
“Pray for [Pastor Asad’s] personal growth and the protection of his Spirit. Remember, he’s someone himself who has experienced significant loss, he lost his home to land grabbers. Now he’s seeing it happening in one of the churches that he shepherds,” Allen asks.
Also, pray for the Lord’s sovereignty and justice in the aftermath of this church attack. Finally, pray for these Christians’ courage and perseverance following this attack.
Want to help financially support Pastor Asad’s church following Sunday’s attack? Then click here to give to FMI’s project advocacy account.
Header photo courtesy of FMI.