"I have never been exposed to such an extreme fear and mass life-threatening situation,” Pakistani Sunday school teacher Mrs Shazia told Barnabas.
The widowed mother-of-three was describing the terrifying events of 16 August 2023 when a mob of extremist Muslims rampaged through the Christian area of Jaranwala, a city in Punjab, burning and looting.
By the time the violence subsided the extremists had ransacked 27 churches as well as pastors’ houses, burned to ashes hundreds of Bibles, set fire to church furniture and carried away anything of value.
Families run for their lives
The homes of more than 100 Christian families were attacked. Around half of these were burned to the ground, while others were looted and vandalised, with household items smashed to pieces.
“We had to run away to the fields to save our lives. Nobody was willing to provide us shelter,” recalled Mrs Shazia.
“All the teachings of Lord Jesus Christ in the Gospels about the troubles of the Church in the last days flashed through my mind repeatedly.”
Returning to her community, Mrs Shazia discovered her home in ruins. All the books and materials she used to teach Sunday school were destroyed. The mob – whom she describes as acting with savagery – took everything of value, including items belonging to her newly married son. “Nothing was spared,” she said.
Working closely with our project partners on the ground, Barnabas funded emergency aid for 172 families (around 1,032 individuals) worst affected by the violence.
We provided each family with a package of food, including staples like wheat flour, rice, pulses, cooking oil and tea, as well as a hygiene kit made up of soap, toothpaste, toothbrushes, towels, washing powder, women’s sanitary pads and two plastic buckets and two mugs.
We also replaced kitchen items lost in the destruction. Families received a set of three pans plus one for making the Pakistani flatbread roti, plates, bowls, cups, cutlery, kitchen knives, a jug with six plastic beakers plus a plastic bucket with a lid for flour storage.
“God provides for all our needs”
In phase two of the aid delivery we are providing each of the 172 families with a second food package, clothing and winter bedding.
Mrs Shazia was deeply touched by these gifts funded by your donations.
“It’s not merely relief supplies,” she told us. “For me it is sharing of love which strengthened me and made me realise that God cares for us and provides for all our needs beyond our expectations.”
The rioting broke out after torn pages of the Quran were found in the street and Muslims, incited by mosque leaders, blamed local Christians.
“Barnabas Aid stood side by side with us … and gave us hope”
“It appeared as if we’d all be killed like animals,” said Martha, a Christian whose home was plundered and burned. “But thanks to our God who protected us.”
“We felt hopeless,” she added as she reflected on the damage inflicted on churches and the Christian community.
She thanked Barnabas for providing families with “desperately needed” practical help.
“We highly appreciate that Barnabas Aid stood side by side with us in our hard times and gave us hope and feelings that our big global family in Christ always cares for us.”
Nisar, a Christian who runs a scrap metal business, recalled being alarmed by an early morning announcement from the local mosque that he said incited Muslims against Christians.
Police took him and his family from their home before it was plundered and burned down.
Thankful for relief supplies
“I am an old man,” said Nisar. “All that I have gathered over a lifetime has been looted and destroyed in just one day. All my business and livelihood are lost.”
It was the first time that he felt that Pakistan was not safe for Christians. “Churches and Holy Bibles were burned and we could do nothing,” he said.
Nisar added, “But we are thankful to Barnabas Aid team who visited us, comforted us with new hopes and provided us with emergency relief supplies. They were desperately required as we have lost all we had.
“May God bless Barnabas Aid always in all ways.”
Project reference: 41-842 (Victims of Violence in Pakistan)