In Pakistan, Christian Church Attendance Soars After Attacks

(PHOTO: REUTERS/ATHAR HUSSAIN) A Pakistani Christian woman attends mass along with others on Christmas day at St Andrew's Church in Karachi, December 25, 2013.
A Pakistani Christian woman attends mass along with others on Christmas day at St Andrew’s Church in Karachi, December 25, 2013.

Terrorist attacks against Pakistan’s Christians, such as the assaults on two congregations in Lahore in March and the September 2013 bombing outside a Peshawar church, have put the community on edge.

For Christians in Pakistan, just like myself who grew up going to church every Sunday, and just like anywhere else in the world, churches are not only a place to worship but to socialize.

Never once have I seen any Christian stop going to church out of fear of losing his or her life. Rather, Christian attendance after the attacks has surged because believers are proud to spend their lives as servants of Christ and be remembered as martyrs for Jesus.

The rise in attacks against churches coincides with an overall increase in terrorist attacks in Pakistan. Taking on terrorism is a gigantic task for a government already overwhelmed with challenges ranging from economic instability, an energy crisis, and maintaining daily law and order.

Christians make up only about 2 percent of Pakistan’s population but the state is bound by the Constitution to protect the rights of minorities. Article 36 says: “The State shall safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of minorities.”

Unfortunately, successful assaults against churches and individual Christians make that provision nearly meaningless.

The government has provided security to various churches in major cities, but terrorist incidents in the capital cities of the Punjab and Khyber Pakhtoonkhawa are evidence that government security often is not enough.

Since churches meet every Sunday, the task of security is so daunting that it appears the government is not up to the challenge.

As a result, a group of Christian men are forming a strategy to fight the threat of terrorism in Pakistan. After the attacks in March, 16 young men banded together to form a security team to defend local churches.

The inspiration behind the formation of this team is Luke 11:21 from the Bible: “When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own house, his possessions are safe.”

The team’s goal is not to point out the government’s failings, but to defend churches.

Click here to read more.

Lubna Thomas Benjamin is freelance writer and 2011-2012 Hubert H. Humphrey Fellow.


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