- (Photo: Reuters)
A Christian ministry worker who encourages and equips believers and the local church inside Pakistan to face persecution, said that the recent rioting against a Christian colony in Lahore, in which 150 homes were burnt, was further evidence of increased Islamization in the country.
"The event did not come as a surprise to the residents of the area called Badami Bagh, in which there is a smaller colony called the Joseph Colony where Christians live," Hana, whose real name was not given for her protection, told The Christian Post earlier this week.
Even though Pakistan's National assembly condemned the action, Hana said it will take more than a proclamation by the government to help curb the problem.
"To have a government that would be strong to root out extremism would be fantastic. That would be an answer to prayer, but the truth is our problem happened in the 70s and 80s when Islamization came and got a foothold in the country," she explained. "The government was soft to it at the time and the seed was planted then and now we are just seeing the fruit of that.
"We are seeing the face of that in the form of extremism. The events of Sept. 11 (2001) really did spiral and [Muslim extremists] did capitalize and we began to see the face of it in a whole new way in Pakistan," she said.
The rioting in Badami Bagh on Saturday followed the arrest of Sawan Masih, a Christian in his 20s accused of the blasphemy of the Prophet Muhammad. News reports quote police as saying the violence began after an argument between a Christian and a Muslim who had been talking over drinks.
CNN reported that Masih's arrest did not squelch the angry mob of Muslims angry over the alleged crime.
"(The) mob wanted police to hand them over the alleged blasphemer," said Hafiz Majid, a senior police official in Badami Bagh, according to CNN's report.
Police in Pakistan's eastern city of Lahore arrested numerous rioters Monday, as hundreds of Christians, according to some reports, hit the street and missionary schools remained closed to protest the burning of the houses of Christians on Saturday over the alleged blasphemy.
The more than 150 suspects were charged under various laws, including the Anti-Terrorism Act, for attempted murder, robbery, arson and terrorism, India's CNN-IBN quoted police officials from Pakistan's Punjab province as saying.
"Anytime we have an incident like this one you have a number of Christians who will leave [Pakistan]," Hana said. "This is a trend that we see. Parents are afraid for the future of their children. It has become increasingly difficult to bring your children up. It's extremely difficult to breathe as Christian in Pakistan let alone to live and bring up a family."
She said that the area where the violence took place and is impoverished and the incident reminded Christians there that following Christ is not about belongings.
"It reminded them that this is just part of the process of walking with the Lord. This is part of what Jesus had said – people will spit on you. People will persecute you for my namesake. They (Christians in the Joseph Colony) did testify that they were reminded of that," Hana said.
"This area is in a very difficult part of the country. It is surrounded by very fanatical and anti-Christian elements so these are people who are used to persecution. That is just there lot in life," she added.
Nevertheless, she asked that Christians worldwide pray that even though the people in the area may be disillusioned, that they "would know the all surpassing peace of God and will stand firm and not become a part of further riots."