03/22/2024, 12.13
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Aid for Jaranwala victims on Easter Eve

by Shafique Khokhar

In Faisalabad a distribution of basic necessities for 150 families who fled the violence of last August. The intervention coordinated by the Faisalabad diocese with Aid to Church in Need Germany. "We are still in the grip of physical and mental trauma," says Shazia Bibi, one of the victims. The desire to be able to 'celebrate Easter with joy'.

Faisalabad (AsiaNews) - Solidarity continues to respond to the violence perpetrated last August in Jaranwala against 21 Christian churches and over 100 homes - triggered by an unfounded accusation of blasphemy and which caused over 900 Christian families to flee. Months have passed since the incident, many victims still live in a precarious situation and require basic necessities.

For this reason, on March 20 the diocese of Faisalabad organized a distribution of food rations and household items for 150 families. Fundamental aid for the victims of the Christian community, a discriminated and persecuted minority in Pakistan (country in 7th place on the World Watch List of the NGO Open Doors, list of countries with the most brutal persecutions against Christians).

The distribution was supported by Aid to Church in Need Germany and coordinated by Msgr. Joseph Indrias Rehmat, bishop of Faisalabad. The gesture took place in the residence of the latter, who invited the families to receive food for a month and objects intended for domestic use such as cots, water coolers, sheets, quilts, pillows and fans.

But money intended for transporting aid to Jaranwala was also distributed. The day began with prayer, with the recitation of the psalms, which was followed by the reading of the Holy Scriptures to bless the distribution. The event took place ten days before the celebration of Easter, with the intention of alleviating the worries of these families in the current Lent.

“I am very grateful to the Catholic Church for the great support it has given us,” said Shazia Bibi, 38 years old, victim of the violence in Jaranwala on this occasion. “Easter is approaching and this ration of food and household items will help us celebrate Easter with joy and happiness with our children.”

The memory of the burned houses and churches is still present today, unshakable in the minds of those who personally witnessed the attacks of last summer. “We are still in the grip of physical and mental trauma, but we never forget our Lord and always pray to him,” said Shazia Bibi, who declares herself a witness to God's support. “He sent his people to support us, who are there for us helping before Easter and they don't let us live alone,” he said.

Interventions to support families affected by last summer's attacks began immediately after the incident. “Since this happened, the diocese of Faisalabad has helped them rebuild their homes and churches, paint their houses, distribute food,” explains Bishop Indrias Rehmat.

In these days the concern is to allow them to experience the Easter season in the most serene way possible. “I wish these victim families to start working again, to earn for their families and to live their lives with pride and dignity,” he added.

The aid interventions of the diocese of Faisalabad are carried out in synergy with the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace, and with other organizations that share its values. A pledge that doesn't just go in the direction of material aid.

“We are providing legal assistance to the victims and we are doing our best to send those responsible for the violence behind bars - continued Mgr. Rehmat -. We have also started some programs for reconciliation between different faiths, so that peace and brotherhood prevail in society."

Closeness to the affected families has always been guaranteed by the local ecclesial authorities. This is underlined by fr. Khalid Rashid Asi, diocesan director of the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace. “We can proudly say that since the Jaranwala incident occurred we have never left our people alone. We are with them, we fight for them and we do our best for their well-being,” he said.

Since last summer, however, the persecution against Christians (1.8% of the population) in Jaranwala and in the country has not stopped. “Recently, nine Christian people were stopped and booked without reason. Muslim people broke into their homes and harassed their families,” the director said. Intimidation that aims to make them feel unimportant, as a minority.

The Commission is committed to demanding justice, also following the Supreme Court's request to investigate cases against Christians fairly. “I want to thank Aid to Church in Need Germany for its assistance in this regard – he added. Thanks also to the embassies who visited Jaranwala and who continue to support us as we await Easter."

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