Christian homes and church buildings in the Punjab region of northern Pakistan have been targeted by extremists after a Christian cleaner was accused of desecrating the Qur’an and insulting the Prophet of Islam.
Hundreds of Christians have fled their homes to avoid the violent mob attacks.
Bishop Tom Neylon, Lead Bishop for Asia for the Bishops’ Conference, has written to the Bishop of the Diocese of Faisalabad, where the wave of attacks took place, to assure the Catholic community of his prayers and support, not to mention those of the faithful in our countries.
“The Catholic community in England and Wales is greatly moved by the suffering of our sisters and brothers in Faisalabad and concerned for the safety of Christians throughout Pakistan,” he wrote in a letter to Bishop Joseph Indrias Rehmat.
“Please be assured of our prayers and unwavering fraternity as you face the immense challenges of protecting those innocent families who have been affected and repairing the harm caused.”
Bishop Neylon made a week-long trip to Pakistan, from 9-16 March, visiting a number of projects in the major cities of Rawalpindi, Islamabad, Lahore and Faisalabad.
“During my visit to Faisalabad earlier this year, I was privileged to experience the generosity, joy, and resilience of the Christian community. I also witnessed the deep respect for other faiths and tireless efforts to build bridges between communities. It is therefore extremely troubling to receive reports of Christians being targeted by violent extremists once again.
He concluded his letter to Bishop Indrias Rehmat with a prayer for peace:
“May you and all those working for justice and peace in Pakistan draw hope from the solidarity of our universal family.
Speaking after writing the letter, Bishop Neylon was also keen to stress that some local Muslims helped Christians out of the firing line.
“Some reports from the country suggest that local Muslims helped Christians escape by warning them ahead of the attacks by extremists. We are deeply thankful to all those who risked their own safety to help protect others.”
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