On Friday afternoon, Sept. 21, a mob of several thousand Muslims attacked St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Mardan City, Pakistan. The attackers, armed with rifles and kerosene, overwhelmed security guards and broke into the church. They destroyed Bibles and prayer books, desecrated the altar and set fire to the church building and several surrounding homes and buildings. The mob was returning from a protest against the film Innocence of Muslims, which has sparked violence in many Middle Eastern countries this month and led to the death of Christopher Stevens, U.S. Ambassador to Libya. In Pakistan, the government had declared Sept. 21 a national holiday in honor of Muhammad, and the day had been set aside for peaceful protests.
The attack on the 82-year-old church lasted for five hours. The church staff was able to flee, but those who lived on the campus lost everything. An adjoining high school, a Christian library, a computer laboratory, the bishop’s house, the bishop’s office, a pastor’s house and the school principal’s house were all burned. The mob also burned a car, three motorcycles and three bicycles. More than 2,000 Bibles, 100 New Testaments and several hundred Christian books and DVDs were destroyed. The attackers spray-painted the words “God is great,” “Oh God help us” and “Love our prophet” on the church steeple.
St. Paul’s in Mardan, which is about 30 miles from Peshawar, was built by British colonists in 1937. The church is active in sharing the gospel with Muslims and also operates a Christian book store. A mosque is directly across the street from the church. In the last two years, the church staff has received six phone calls in which callers threatened to kill them if they didn’t stop preaching and distributing Christian literature.
The day after the attack, church members and other local Christians gathered in front of the burned buildings to express their disappointment at the local government for failing to protect their church. On Sunday, Sept. 23, more than 1,000 people — many more than the church’s usual congregation of 300 — attended a prayer meeting at the church site.
Pastor Gulam Shad, a church staff member and VOM volunteer, shared a message from Rev. 2:10: “Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life” (ESV). He reminded the crowd that the Lord knows our suffering. “The teaching of Christ is to forgive our enemies,” Pastor Gulam said. “His teachings are on forgiveness and kindness. Today we have to be a role model for other nations so they can see from us how we follow the teachings of our Lord.”
The same church was bombed in September 2010, after an American pastor publicly burned a Quran. Three security guards, including a Muslim, were injured in the attack. After the bombing, VOM provided the church with a generator, which was destroyed during the violence last week.
Source: Voice of the Martyrs