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The Church in Pakistan is scared. Revenge attacks will come as no surprise

Pakistani Christians are held responsible for the actions of the West: it would not be the first time they have been made scapegoats

By on Friday, 6 May 2011

Muslims in Gujranwala protest against an alleged burning of the Koran (AP Photo/Aftab Rizvi)

Muslims in Gujranwala protest against an alleged burning of the Koran (AP Photo/Aftab Rizvi)

Monday, May 2, was a historic day for America, the day when its most wanted man, Osama bin Laden, was finally found and killed by the US army. While the news was welcomed by leaders around the world, it has been harder to digest in Pakistan. There are conspiracy theorists and sceptics everywhere, including in the US, but flicking through the channels on Pakistani television and listening to the many journalists and security experts offer their analysis, it is apparent that there is considerable scepticism in Pakistan over whether Bin Laden has really been killed.

Many want to see footage of his burial as proof and there are still who are not even willing to blame Bin Laden for the suicide attacks on civilians, mosques and the Pakistani forces. Several of those defending him were people who had met him in the past and channels were showing their photographs with him. Osama was their hero in spite of the fact that he effectively declared war on Pakistan with terrorist attacks that have killed thousands of innocent men, women and children. Sadly, Bin Laden is likely to remain a hero for a long time among those Pakistanis who considered him to be a “soldier of Allah” waging legitimate jihad against the US. To the rest of the world, Bin Laden was and forever will be a terrorist, but in Pakistan emotions against the US have been running high for a very long time and the perspective is somewhat different.

That aside, the killing of Bin Laden on Pakistani soil has raised many concerns. The Pakistani foreign office – and the US confirmed it – stated that it was not aware of the attack on Bin Laden’s compound. Questions are being asked as to why the US did not inform the Pakistani government of its operation, but there are also obvious questions about our national security and the ability of our army to protect the country when it is not even aware of a major military operation taking place a short distance away from one of its top military academies.

The media has been further critical of the government’s reticence since news of Bin Laden’s death broke. Instead of coming before journalists and the cameras to clarify the situation, government officials have been nowhere to be seen, leaving many of us wondering whether they even know what’s going on.

The most important question that everyone is asking, however, is whether bin Laden’s death will reduce terrorism. I have my doubts. An oft repeated statement in the last few days has been that the world is a safer place without him. That may turn out to be true in the long run but, in terms of the foreseeable future, the threat of a terrorist attack on the US, UK and other parts of the western world is severe.

Lots are already being drawn as to who will be Bin Laden’s likely successor, with Ayman Al-Zawahiri the emerging favourite. Certainly the indications are that al-Qaeda, while perhaps deflected momentarily by the death of its leader, is nowhere close to forsaking its goal of establishing an Islamic world order by any and every means possible. This not only has implications for the western world – al-Qaeda’s most loathed enemy – but for Pakistan and majority Muslim countries too. Ayman Al-Zawahiri said in his book, The Morning and the Lamp, that Pakistan and its constitution are un-Islamic, and he is wanted not only by the US, but by the Egyptian government too.

Despite having nothing to do with Bin Laden’s death, Pakistani Christians are also now extremely fearful of a backlash. If the Taliban attack their churches and properties, it would come as no surprise as Christians have tended to be the targets for acts of vengeance whenever the West has invaded a Muslim country. In the aftermath of 9/11 and the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, Islamic militants launched deadly attacks on churches and institutions. Christians were killed in cold blood as they worshipped or went about their daily business. There will no doubt be many more as the war on terror continues.

Indeed, the Catholic Archbishop Emeritus of Lahore, Lawrence Saldanha, expressed grave concerns about the safety of Pakistan’s Christians. “Christians could face a backlash and we are a soft target as they cannot attack America. We demand security. The government should control any retaliation,” he said.

The Church in Pakistan is scared and its leaders are crying out for greater security, particularly around churches. Even as I write this article, Christians are facing an extremely precarious situation in Gujranwala, where tensions are threatening to boil over after Christians were accused of burning copies of the Koran. Mushtaq Gill and his son Farrukh were taken into police custody for questioning and found guilty. Muslims have reacted angrily, holding protests and vandalising Christian homes and a school. Some 3,000 Christians have fled the area in fear for their lives and the police have utterly failed to bring the situation under control.

The killing of Bin Laden will only increase hatred towards the US and towards Pakistani Christians, who are automatically responsible for the actions of the West simply because they share the same faith. It is my sincere hope that Christians in Pakistan are not made the scapegoats once again, as the archbishop fears, and that the world does indeed become safer and more peaceful without Osama bin Laden.

  • Anonymous

    The fact that Muslims are prepared to take it out on Christians is proof that the killing of Osama bin Laden was God’s punishment for his false religion and theirs.

  • ms catholic state

    As the Archbishop of Lahore said….Christians are a soft target. That is why they are attacked… has nothing to do with preserving the honour of Islam or any other dubious allegation. We should broadcast this far and wide……..and shame Muslims into treating Christians and other minority faiths with respect. Nobody likes to be seen as a bully and a coward……….for attacking a soft target.

  • Honey_gill2008

    u ppls show diz but u dont help the pplz facing this problems….take all Christians from Pakistan n give us a peace of land

  • ms catholic state

    I agree… is time for a practical solution of that kind. Hopefully this is something that the Pope(s) will strive for in the long term. If not…..then what hope for Christians of the Middle East and Pakistan?!

  • Anonymous

    nobody has the right to call another religion as false – religion is based on faith, not provable science. If we want to be respected by other religions we cannot deny their right to exist by saying that they are ‘false’.

  • Martin

    I agree with ms catholic state here, this needs to be dealt with at the highest levels. So often the EU or UN harp on about religious rights, lets see what they say about this and what physical action they are going to do about it. It would be nice to see them put some action where their mouth is. Not that i do expect them to do anything of course, because that may offend the dignity of a bunch of people who can do what ever they like especially when the koran is involved.

    Side note for ms catholic state – in regard to comments i made on Dr Oddie’s blog, this is one example why i dont believe a Catholic/Christian church should ever attach itself to a secular state power, (regardless of what they sign upto in principle). The moment it can be justified that an action has been undertaken by a state (read Christian powers) against muslims, it all of a sudden justifies any action against real christians that they can think of.

  • Martin

    Of course we do, its called freedom of speech.
    Religion, if it is worth something is not simply based on faith. You have to have some form of knowledge/evidence about something to base your faith in and on. It would be stupid to say i know nothing or have heard nothing of my religion but have faith. What would we be basing our faith on?

    As to saying other peoples religions are false, that can only be stated in the light of the strength of evidence of your own belief system and how that religion relates to yours. In this case they are fundamentally opposed. One says that Jesus was and is the Son of God, the other says God has no Son. Both cannot be true, one is false/mistaken, call it what you will. Just because i claim that the muslim faith is false does not mean that i deny its right to exist. There are many false religions in the world if Jesus was indeed who the Gospels claim him to be. It also puts all the other so called faiths in perspective. They are (like it or not) false.
    The statement about Osama’s death being punishment for his wrong religion however is total tosh, that comes at Judgement day.

  • Anonymous

    I think that ‘right’ was the wrong word to use. Foolish would be much closer to what I meant; NOT to foolish to believe so; but foolish to argue so in an argument with someone of another religion.

    Because we back up our arguments from the Bible – they mean nothing if the Bible is not belived to be true. In the same respect someone quoting the Koran; however well – cannot convince us – because we don’t believe it to be true.

    Therefore for either side to claim the other’s religion is false is foolish, and unproductive.

    Also to claim that every worldy action that goes your way – is an act of God; who is punishing the sins of others (as mollysdad suggested), is also stupid – because it equally could be claimed by extremist Muslims that 9/11 was the work of God.

    We can quite clearly see that it was the work of the US Navy SEALS team that killed Osama.

  • Anonymous

    Nationality very often goes before religion – hence the many Palestinian Christians in Palastine that we forget about when talking about Israel.

  • ms catholic state

    In that case Martin…..the Church is failing in her duty to call government to obey and follow the commands of Christ. That is flagrant irresponsibility. The actions of Christians are proscribed……we have our limits and we follow them. Secularism has no moral limits. That’s what makes it so dangerous.

    For everyone’s sake……the Church needs to act a restraining and guiding force on secular government….as it has in the past… Christendom.

  • ms catholic state

    Not always……for many people including me…..religion goes before nationality.

  • Dcruz

    The chruch and christians will always be scared because they have submitted to the followers of the religion of peace in their counrtry.They have done all their dirty work and given them a lot of facilities/amenities like good quality cheap education, cheap or free mecical care, massive work done for the flood and earthquake victims, provided them with employment in their institutions and caring to the hnadicapped , discarded children, leprosy patients,drug addicts and prisioners.Keep it up and continue to remain and live in fear.

  • John

    It is nice article
    written in the context of Christian’s fear in Paksitan. However the
    important thing, which the writer has described the recent situation of
    Gujranwala. It was possible it could be
    made the 2nd Gojra because of the motivation and instigation of Muslim Cleric.
    The details I received from Gujranwala is very alarming that: “Qari Irfan Qadri the mastermind of Gujranwala hasn’t been
    nominated yet, there are rumours that local clerics are trying to save him and
    trying to put blame on some outside hand. On the other hand the proved innocent
    Elder Mushtaq Gill, Farrkah Gill, Rev. Eric Isaac, Anwer Khokher, Elder Ejaz
    and many more Christians haven’t been released yet. it was heard that
    Amam of Shahi Mosque of Lahore was also present there. They
    walked in the streets of Aziz & Gulzar Colony for the sake of unity and
    brotherhood among people. Well! it was a
    good action but it could have been better or rather best if”. The important point to be noted
    THE STORY. Muslims must punish him so that in future no one will take
    law in their hands. Christians in Pakistan should not comprise on this
    sensitive issue otherwise they will be punished and deprived for whole life.John Bosco London

  • Martin

    Well said. I totally agreed with you.

  • Martin

    Almost agree with you on everything you said here.

    Foolish would be a better word.

    The arguement that “when actions go right” it seems to support God’s supernatural thumbs up to your view is spot on. Total rubbish. It is the fruit of an action that normally indicates its originator, especially through the binoculars of history.

    The only thing i would caveat your comments about backing up our arguements from the bible is that a whole lot of it IS testible in the sense of ” historical accuracy or observable science”, (it depends on what subject is being discussed).

    Whilst the supernatural views maybe a matter of faith based on the evidence within the bible, the bible is a documents that is testable in regard to accuracy and therefore trustworthyness. It allows readers to make an informed choice based on real life events that are accurately transmitted through the Gospels.

    It will depend on if the individuals involved will give real time and effort to probing the truth (on all sides). That of course never really happens, as most people take their view point from what they have been told rather than what they themselves have researched as a way of confirming the message they have recieved. It is also why a lot of people cant defend their own faith or viewpoint when confronted with near truths and error.

    God Bless

  • Dcruz

    Christian become a soft target to muslim isalmist for which the church becomes scared but is the church not afraid of all the numerous schools, other institutions and church aid organisations they run and largely help muslims. Muslim are holding key posts in some of these organsiation and getting fat salaries.