Recent attacks by radical neighbors on a church in a small Christian community near Karachi, Pakistan, endangered the lives of a pastor, his family, and his congregation.
On October 24, 2023, a group mainly comprised of fruit and vegetable sellers with extremist ideologies targeted the church during a prayer service. One of the vendors arrived at the church grounds in a drunken stupor with his cart, which he used to block the church gate, preventing the congregation from entering.
A woman confronted the intoxicated fruit seller, requesting he move aside to allow a clear path for those worshiping at the church, but the man refused. The pastor’s son then urged the aggressor to stop his behavior and move away from the church. The man again refused and responded with abuse and physical violence, leading Paul*, the pastor of the church, to intervene.
Despite Pastor Paul's efforts to mediate the confrontation, the man remained hostile. The conflict drew the attention of neighbors who sided with the pastor and his son, temporarily diffusing the situation. The trouble soon continued, however.
"In a matter of minutes, the drunk man returned with a group of radical individuals,” said Pastor Paul. “They were armed with knives, metal rods, and weapons. As they entered our street, the onlooking crowd, previously standing with us, became frightened and ran into their houses. It left me, my son, and a church elder alone in front of that angry, radical group of people.”
The drunken attacker identified Pastor Paul as a companion who was holding a sharp knife.
“He launched into a verbal tirade and then lunged at me with the knife,” said Pastor Paul. “The entire group joined in, attacking me with various weapons, including knives and rods. Through God's immense grace, I was shielded by His protective hands. Praise God, I was left with only bruises from this incident that could have been deadly. This was solely due to the grace of Jesus, who provided shelter and sent His angels for my protection."
The intoxicated radicals, seeking the Pastor's son, then launched an attack on his family’s home, connected to the church building. The mob stormed the church, chanted anti-Christian slogans, and vandalized sacred items, furniture, the sound system, and other items. Police arrived after the most serious damage had been inflicted.
Following the incident, Pastor Paul contacted local Christian political leaders to address the situation. Together with area elders, the political leadership supported the victimized community and condemned the attackers' actions. In the presence of these leaders, the head of police offered Pastor Paul the opportunity to file a report against the vandals and attackers, ensuring strict actions would be taken, but the pastor instead responded with forgiveness.
"We are peaceful followers of Jesus Christ,” he said. "He forgave those who tortured Him, and He teaches us to forgive others. In that spirit, we forgive them, for He has taught us that by forgiving others, our own sins are also forgiven.” Quoting Matthew 5:44, he said, “’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.’ My congregation and I have forgiven them, and we continue to pray for their transformation of heart and mind."
Pastor Paul highlighted the ongoing risks to his congregation. Churchgoers in this area are used to harassment while attending services, and vendors often intentionally obstruct church entrances on already narrow streets, shouting inappropriate chants and insults to women as they pass by.
“There are still occurrences of suspicious individuals entering our community on late nights, often carrying guns,” he said. “Additionally, there's a presence of drug and alcohol sale and consumption within the community, posing a serious danger to our children, women, and those who are socially vulnerable."
Photo Courtesy: Muneer Ahmed Ok/Unsplash
Global Christian Relief (GCR) is America’s leading watchdog organization focused on the plight of persecuted Christians worldwide. In addition to equipping the Western church to advocate and pray for the persecuted, GCR works in the most restrictive countries to protect and encourage Christians threatened by faith-based discrimination and violence.