“You Can Destroy Our House, but You Can’t Destroy Our Faith!”

31 Jan

“You Can Destroy Our House, but You Can’t Destroy Our Faith!”

11-year-old Slawish, who lost his father to martyrdom, with his grandfather

“You Can Destroy Our House, but You Can’t Destroy Our Faith!”

David’s 5th Photo-Blog from Pakistan

In the early morning of August 16 of last year, hundreds of Muslim extremists descended on five or six Christian neighborhoods in the Pakistan town of Jaranwala. It was an attack that had been planned for weeks in advance, justified on the basis of a false accusation of “blasphemy.” Two Jaranwala Christians were accused of burning a copy of the Quran.

In a single day, the riotous mobs systematically burned or destroyed, to some degree, all 26 churches in the Christian neighborhoods of Jaranwala as well as at least 100 Christian homes. All the believers fled for their lives. Some were brutally beaten, particularly anyone who put up any resistance. Christian women were raped. At least one man was killed.

The terrorized Christians who escaped their homes, about 1,000 in all, hid in fields outside of Jaranwala. I’m thankful to report that Heaven’s Family was there to help almost immediately because of quick response by our primary Pakistani ministry partner, Sarfraz William, who founded and heads Pakistan’s first Christian TV station. Thanks to everyone who has invested in Heaven’s Family’s Persecuted Christians Ministry, we were able to offer $20,000 in relief services to those 1,000 believers during the initial days after their trauma, primarily by providing food and blankets.

A few days ago, our little team flew from Karachi to Lahore and then traveled by car to Jaranwala, arriving in the evening. There, several local pastors were waiting for us, as well as the Christian family that we highlighted in our August appeal for the persecuted Christians of Jaranwala.

Upon our arrival, we were guided into a typical urban Pakistani home that shares its adjacent brick walls with other homes. The interior was empty of any furnishings. It had been ransacked and looted once the family fled during the attacks, and the interior had been sprayed with a flammable liquid and ignited. The family has not moved back in as they lack windows, but it appeared that the walls have at least been re-painted.

I immediately recognized the mother of the family, Suriya, and one of her sons, Slawish, whose photos we featured in our August appeal. Notably absent was the family’s father, Fayazz, who was brutally beaten by the mob and left for dead. His wife, Suriya, and their four children, have never seen him since, and he is presumed dead, although a body has never been found.

As we sat in a circle around a portable two-burner propane stove for some warmth, I learned that, as the rioters were looting and burning other Christian homes on the street, they promised Slawish that they would not burn his family’s house if he would convert to Islam. Just as his father had done when he was made the same offer, Slavish told them, “Our faith is more valuable than our home, and we cannot give it up.” That stance cost Slawish’s father his life. Thankfully, Slawish escaped with his.

Slawish is a gifted singer, and I’ve included a short video below of a song he sang for us—in classical South Asian style—that echoed off the barren walls of the house that used to be his home.

The next morning we returned to visit the cramped and substandard rented “house” where Suriya and Slavish’s family has been living since they all returned to their neighborhood, and as they await the hopeful finished renovation of their former house that currently needs windows. Although the Pakistan government gave about $7,000 to 50 Christian families in Jaranwala to renovate their homes (an act that may have only been due to international pressure), it has proven to be insufficient. Several young Christian men also told us that they lost their jobs after the August persecutions, and we discussed some possible ways that Heaven’s Family could help them start their own small businesses.

The only consolation that the Jaranwala Christians have is that their reward in heaven is great (Matt. 5:10-12). Suriya is still hoping her husband will be discovered to be alive.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the fact that the average Pakistani person is not well-represented by the Muslim extremists who attacked the Christians in Jaranwala. Rather, most Pakistanis respect the rights and religions of others, and they are trying to live in peace, make a living, and raise families. They condemned the Jaranwala attacks. (Many of them have a greater fear of God and follow a more biblical code of ethics than do some evangelical Christians who trust in a strange grace that God has never offered!) And you can strike up a conversation about God with just about any Pakistani without fear of offending them.

Below are some photos of our time in Jaranwala.

IMG_9391.jpegSuriya and Slavish (3rd and 5th from left) with their extended family members on the street in front of their home.

IMG_9370.jpegI took this photo from the roof of one of the rooms in the rented “house” that is being shared by Suriya’s family and her extended family. It consists of two rooms, and the rest was open to the sky, so I assumed it is unfinished.

IMG_9364.jpegMyself and Sawish’s grandfather who is in his 80s. He served me some sweetened buffalo milk called “lassi” that cleansed my colon for five days afterwards!

IMG_9375 2.jpegSlawish at the gate of his current home

Here’s the video of Slawish singing

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