Christians Planting Churches in Pakistan Receive Death Threats from Muslims: 'Convert to Islam, or We Will Make an Example of You'

( [email protected] ) May 14, 2015 01:56 PM EDT
Pakistani Christians
(Photo : Getty Images)
Christians worship at a church in Lahore, Pakistan. Christians make up just 1-2% of the region's population.

Christian leaders in Lahore, Pakistan have received death threats from Muslims over the past few months because of their involvement in the building of churches in the area, AsiaNews has revealed.

Javed David, a Pakistani Christian activist, told the news source on Monday that he and at least three of his Christian associates have been threatened by an anonymous group of Muslims amid growing anger regarding the construction of Christian churches.

David, who is the president of Hope for the Light Ministries, and his associates have been helping poor Christian communities in Pakistan build places of worship since 2013. However, he explained that he is becoming increasingly uneasy, particularly in the wake of the double suicide bomb attacks on churches in Lahore back in March.

In April, the anonymous group warned that if he continues to help construct churches, he will be made an "example" of.

"I had been to church in Sheikhupura to attend a meeting with colleagues. It was 8 p.m. when we left to return to Lahore. We were about to reach the main road when a motorbike drove up and blocked the way," David said. "[I thought] maybe they were following us. The two bikers were wearing a helmet. One of them came up to my window and spoke to me. 'We know what you are doing here,' he said. 'Stop building churches. Convert to Islam, which is the true religion. Otherwise we will make a horrible example of you.'"

Then, in February, he was threatened another man on a motorcycle upon his visit in February to another church that is under construction.

"On that occasion, too, I was going home when a motorcycle stopped in front of me," David described. "The driver knocked on the window and threw in a piece of paper. I did not open it before I got home. It said, 'This is an Islamic nation. We cannot allow church building. Either you convert to Islam or your leave this country! Stop building churches or you will pay the consequence."

"My family and I are scared and worried because I continue to receive threats," David added. "Where can we go to enjoy religious freedom? This is our country; we have lived here for generations."

"Still, I dedicated my life to Christ and I shall continue to serve His people, no matter what happens."

The other men also building the churches alongside David, Ata-ur-Rehman, Saman Joy Alexander and John Akram, have also received death threats.

"Right now we were shocked and frightened," Ata-ur-Rehman told AsiaNews.

Religious tensions in Lahore grown increasingly high after an incident in March, where a mob of Christians in the Youhanabad neighborhood lynched two Muslim men who were thought to have participated in the March 15 Taliban bombings of two Lahore churches.

Since then, Christians, who make up just 1 to 2 percent of Pakistan's population have been targeted for their beliefs, such as the 15-year-old Pakistani who was set on fire and later died because he admitted that he was a Christian to a couple of Muslim men. Also, in March, police in Lahore supposedly tortured a young Christian man to death after his mother was accused by her Muslim employer of stealing gold and money.

"The Christian community is a soft target for militant outfits in Pakistan," Rabia Mehmood, a researcher at the Jinnah Institute, a Pakistani think tank, said. "But generally Christians and other religious minorities are under a constant threat by the extremist elements in the society and rampant religious intolerance."

Wilson Chowdhry, chairman of the British Pakistani Christian Association, or BPCA, noted that the growing persecution of Christians is due in part to the Pakistani government's failure to punish those responsible.

"The value of a Christian in Pakistan is deemed no more than a postage stamp," Chowdhry said. "Unless significant social reform takes place, this ongoing hatred will lead to even more sorrow in a country bereft of love."