A prominent Christian leader in Pakistan has predicted greater unity and less friction between the country’s Christians and Muslims in the wake of the deadly Easter bombing in Lahore.
Qaiser Julius, director of the Open Theological Seminary in Lahore, called on Muslims and Christians to stand united and cooperate with the security forces as they fight the terrorists who attacked a crowded public park in Lahore on Sunday with the loss of at least 72 lives.
“We need to think as Pakistanis now rather than as belonging to the Christian community,” Julius told Eternity today.
“It’s true that 70 per cent of the victims are Christians and 30 per cent are Muslims, but we can see that the terrorists are not discriminating, so we as Pakistanis are very much under attack and the main target is Pakistan.”
Julius said he had seen Muslims in the market weeping as they watched television news footage of the victims of the explosion at Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park, many of whom were women and children.
“I think we now have an opportunity for this country to be more integrated rather than disintegrated,” he said.
“There [is] more of a sense of unity and we should play our part as Christians because … Christians are part of this land, they have given their blood and they have sacrificed for this country, so it’s our country as well, it’s the country of the people of Pakistan rather than the country of any particular faith.”
Five ways you can help support Christians in Pakistan
The most powerful thing you can do is ask God to bring peace and security to Pakistan, to keep Christians and Muslims alike safe in their daily lives and reassure them of his purpose in living in such a difficult part of the world.
2. Be active on social media
Many Christian Pakistanis who had already left the country are living as asylum-seekers in detention camps in Thailand, Sri Lanka and Malaysia. Investigate their plight, and talk about it with your friends and family. How would you feel if you were forced to flee your home, and take up residence in a tent, that leaked, with malaria-infected mozzies, for an indefinite amount of time?
3. Support asylum seekers living in Australia
There are Pakistani asylum seekers in Australia, but also *many* others living here, under what the government calls “community detention”. This means they are allowed to live in the community but are usually not allowed to work or study, and have no access to Medicare. In 2013 the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre reported that their weekly allowance was $171, which had to cover food, transport and utilities.
There are many organisations helping out with the daily needs of asylum seekers and refugees, but they need your help. Simple Love helps provide much needed groceries to asylum seekers living in the community. Enough Room is helping Aussies open up their homes to give asylum seekers places to sleep. The Welcome Centre provides support to asylum seekers, refugees and new arrivals through English classes, volunteer & work experience opportunities, emergency relief and friendship. What could you do?
4. Support education for Christian women
Bible Society Australia is raising money for the education of Christian women in Pakistan, aiming to equip them to take their full part in society. Find out more.
5. Stay informed
Although the news stories have all but disappeared from the Australian news headlines, news continues to emerge from the blast site, with updated numbers of those killed or wounded. Stay up to date on this information, so you can more accurately support Pakistan’s Christians in prayer and help your friends be informed.
With the sense of insecurity greatly heightened after the park attack, many Christians are looking for opportunities to leave Pakistan, without realising the difficulties they will face as asylum-seekers, he said.
But Julius sees great opportunities for Pakistan’s Christian community after the latest attack to be a witness for Christ.
He believes Christian leaders in the country bear a great responsibility to help the minority Christian community see the purpose of living in this Muslim-dominated part of the world.
“Yes, we are suffering but what is the purpose behind our suffering? Why did God put us in that situation where we are suffering?” he said.
“If the people understand properly that there is a purpose behind our suffering, then they would take this as a opportunity for us to witness for Christ and to live for Christ.
“But if they don’t understand properly the purpose of us living in this part of the world then they will think ‘why are we suffering, why don’t we leave this part of the world and live somewhere else where we will have peace and security and especially a future for the children?’ ”
Julius said the current generation needed to pass on to the next generation that the purpose of living in Pakistan was being a follower of the Lord, being the “light and salt” of the community.
He admitted that he often felt speechless and didn’t know how to console victims’ families, who were asking why God had not protected them.
So the Open Theological Seminary is holding a seminar on Monday to look at the philosophical and theological responses Christians should have to such a huge tragedy.
“Ultimately this is the response of the Christian community that our lives are in the hands of the Lord and people are in a bad situation. They go to work and they don’t know if they will come back or their children leave for school and will they be able to come back? In that way we have to commit ourselves to the Lord.”More