The attacks on the Christian community in Jaranwala that took place on the 16th August 2023 have caused shock and outrage at home and around the world. Following an alleged desecration of a Quran by two young Pakistani Christians, broadcasts from the loudspeakers of a nearby Mosque incited crowds to respond. Shockingly, 21 churches and over 100 homes belonging to Christians were then set on fire, causing families to flee in fear of their lives.
How Should PAK7 Respond?
As many Christian ministries leap into action it is important for us at PAK7 to determine what our response should be.
- There are Persecution ministries who highlight the persecuted and the discriminated.
- There are Relief and Development ministries that bring relief in the form of food and funds to rebuild lives.
- There are Advocacy ministries who lobby the Pakistani government, and those who lobby other governments around the world.
But we are a Pakistani media ministry… what is the unique response that we bring?
Changing Attitudes To Pakistani Christians
One of the most heartening things I read in the aftermath of the violence, was an article in DAWN, a local Pakistani newspaper. It describes the visit of a Muslim Supreme Court Judge who visits Jaranwala to show his solidarity with Christians and to see the situation for himself.
He spoke strongly that “If anyone attacks churches, it is the responsibility of Muslims [to catch] the attackers.” He also stated that Islam was a religion that encouraged people to wish peace upon others, and decried the rioters as barbarians. The same article spoke of Muslims who sheltered their Christian neighbours and I heard from our Social Media team that some Muslims wrote to them to apologise for what had happened.
The change that needs to take place is a change in the hearts of everyday Muslims.
How can PAK7 help achieve that?
At the heart of our ministry is the belief that Media is a powerful tool to bring about transformation. And whilst we ourselves are shaken by what has happened, here are some of the approaches we can take…
- Tell the story of the Muslim heroes who stand up for the Christian minority. At PAK7 we believe that real change will occur in Pakistan when ordinary Muslims stand up for what is right, when they stand with arms linked in front of Christian homes and churches, when they shame the looters and the rabble-rousers, when they call on their government to act, when they write to us and apologise for what their own have done. When we show them as heroes, more will follow their example.
- Help ordinary Muslims to empathise with the Christians who have suffered in this situation. Good reporting can help others to empathise with Christians who have lost their homes and their livelihoods, and help viewers of all faiths to share the feelings of injustice.
- Tell the stories of Christians who are good people, who are serving their nation, who are helping Pakistanis of all faiths -in so doing, we appeal to the ordinary Muslim. They begin to see Christians in a positive light and are less likely to victimise them, and more likely to stand up for them.
- Live out the message of the Gospel. Loving, not complaining. Complaining about the situation of Christians is a tricky one. If handled incorrectly, complaints can in fact harden people’s hearts towards you. I’m not arguing that we should stay silent about injustices, but rather that we need to appeal to people to act because they want to, not because we think they should. As the saying goes, “You catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar”. When Jesus talks about turning the other cheek, is this what he is pointing to… the idea that we confound and even love people into change?
The Blasphemy laws in Pakistan are often weaponised in situations like these. But are they really to blame? In truth, even if they were removed tomorrow, the mob would not behave differently. What Pakistan needs is a change of heart, a rising up of moderates who will stand up for the rights of minorities, who will campaign for religious freedom, and who will choose to recognise those who burn Qurans around the world as ignorant vandals rather than taking it out on their innocent Christian neighbours.
Winning hearts and Minds
Incidents like Jaranwala should shock us. And they should mobilise us to act. And whilst some must rightly treat the symptoms of this mistrust and hatred, we at PAK7 must give an even greater focus to targeting the root causes. With the launch of our own channel in 2022 we have to some extent had to focus on programs for Christians, but perhaps this is a wake-up call that we need to place a greater emphasis on making programs for non-Christians… because Pakistani Christians need supporters like Nehemiah’s Artaxerxes, or Daniel’s Darius, but they also need the Rahabs and the transformed Sauls.
And so I appeal to you, our supporters, to
- pray for those affected but also to pray for those who perpetrated this violence, that God would change their hearts.
- share with your friends the plight of our Christian brothers and sisters in Pakistan.
- appeal to your political leaders to bring pressure onto Pakistani authorities.
- continue helping PAK7 to win the hearts and minds of those in Pakistan who can effect real change in their nation.