(BARTLESVILLE, Okla.) – After thousands of angry Muslims destroyed 25 churches, looted homes and desecrated a Christian cemetery, The Voice of the Martyrs’ contacts immediately began helping Christians in Pakistan find food and safe shelter.
In an attack that continued for more than 10 hours, large mobs armed with batons and sticks rampaged through Christian areas of Jaranwala, Pakistan, after torn and defaced pages of a copy of the Quran were allegedly found. Local mosques put out a call for revenge—a call amplified on mosque loudspeakers and through social media.
Two Christian brothers accused of blasphemy were taken into custody. And more than 140 people have been arrested for this violent attack.
Multiple reports say police watched the ongoing violence rather than intervening to protect Christians or their property. Having been warned ahead of time, many Christian families fled the area, seeking shelter with friends or relatives to avoid the violence.
According to Pakistan’s blasphemy law, the two Christian men could face the death penalty, although no one has ever been executed. Since 1990, at least 65 people have reportedly been killed extrajudicially in Pakistan over claims of blasphemy.
VOM contacts in Pakistan immediately went to Jaranwala to encourage Christians affected by this violent attack and assess the best ways VOM could provide help and assistance. They helped Christians and pastors who had lost their homes find food and shelter.
“Pray for front-line workers ministering to families who have lost everything in this attack,” said Todd Nettleton, VOM’s spokesperson. “Pray God will meet the needs of Christians affected by the violence. Pray that government leaders will intervene to protect Christians and that the attackers will be held accountable.”
Pakistan carries the “restricted nation” designation in the VOM’s Global Prayer Guide. This designation describes countries where government-sanctioned circumstances or anti-Christian laws lead to Christians being harassed, imprisoned, killed or deprived of possessions or liberties because of their witness.
According to the VOM Global Prayer Guide, about 98% of Pakistanis are Sunni and Sufi Muslims. The two percent of Pakistani Christians mainly live together in closed neighborhoods known as colonies, which have historically provided a measure of security amid the widespread oppression. Still, several large-scale attacks have occurred in these areas in recent years, including some during Christmas.