The Christians and the Churches in Youhanabad, one of the largest Christian settlements in Punjab have received terror attack threats as the Christians prepare for Christmas all over the world.
Several Churches have reported the threat to the concerned authorities and requested to increase the security. In March 2015 two deadly attacks left more than 20 dead, 70 injured and several crippled for life in Youhanabad, the residents have been living under fear, hundreds left the area and more than 102 young were picked up by the police for lynching 2 attackers.
The residents have been living on constant fear explains Shaukat Masih a resident, he narrates, “ the residents are living in uncertainty, they are hardly coming out of the memories of the attacks in March, the fresh threats to the Churches have spread a wave of fear among the residents. The numbers have decreased at the Churches since the attacks. After the attacks the police picked up over a hundred boys on the allegation of burning two men, several are still in the jail facing a possible death sentence, those who have returned from the jails are still in a trauma, and they have marks of severe torture from the police.”
Nusrat Bibi a teacher from Youhanabad had tears in her eyes, “not long ago, as the advent began, we use to decorate our streets, homes and Churches. And the best part was that there was a completion each year that which house will have the biggest star at the roof top, every house was lit up with joy, the streets were full of stalls for Christmas decorations. But this year, fear and uncertainty reigns the streets of Youhanabad, no one is safe. There are hardly any stalls or decorations anywhere in the locality, people are afraid to even put decorations, it feels like someone stole away our happiness. I moved to Youhanabad with my family in the early 90s and since then there was not a single Christmas which was filled with laughter and joy, Youhanabad was a symbol of the spirit of Christmas in the city, but now everything is dull. I pray to God to return the joy to the Christians in Pakistan this Christmas.”
The police has increased the security in the area. Luke Francis a local vendor outside the Catholic Church in Youhanabad said, “the business has been badly affected, I am barely able to sell any items this year. The wave of fear has struck the locals, Christmas is the event of joy, but everything is dull, doesn’t feel like it`s Christmas, no events, no decorations or participation from the people. Seems as if someone has stolen away Christmas from us. I am worried for my family, how will I be able to buy new clothes for my children or how will I celebrate Christmas?”
The security has been increased at the Churches, the churches have set up their own security as well. Life For All Pakistan calls on the civil society to join “Pray for peace”, Xavier William the President LFA issued a statement , “Pakistan is a state which for years has fought against terrorism that has hit the streets, squares, schools, Mosques and Churches. We will continue to pray unceasingly to God for the gift of peace and the strength to overcome difficult times like this. Terrorism is a challenge that affects us all today nowhere is safe .Christmas is the message of joy, hope and victory over death, we are taking this message to every house to celebrate the birth of the Messiah. We are encouraging the faithful to spend time in fast and pray as the year ends, pray for hope, prosperity and joy for the coming year.”
LFA Pakistan also applauds Punjab government on announcing a Christmas fund of 500 Million Rupees for the Christian community in Punjab, 200 million is to be given as scholarships to the deserving Christian students. It will be dispersed as 20 Thousand to 75 Thousand Rupees per student. The rest of the 300 Million will be distributed among the unprivileged which will be dispersed as 5 Thousand Rupees per family. 20 Christmas discount markets will be set up across Punjab to facilitate the marginalized. Last year the Christmas fund was 150 Million.