ASIA/PAKISTAN - Nine months after the violence against Christians, work is underway to restore harmony and rehabilitate families

Saturday, 25 May 2024 blasphemy   human rights   religious minorities  

Jaranwala (Agenzia Fides) - Nine months after the mass violence that destroyed the Christian neighborhood of Jaranwala, a town in the Pakistani province of Punjab, "there is still a certain level of hostility in the area, and this climate of tension is felt above all in the lack of school attendance of Christian children, who are ridiculed or excluded by teachers and classmates and are therefore afraid or do not want to go to school," explains to Fides Michelle Chaudhry, President of "The Cecil & Iris Chaudhry Foundation" (CICF), which is primarily involved in social projects for the benefit of marginalized Christian communities in Pakistan.
On August 16, 2023, the Christian community of Jaranwala was attacked by radical Muslims, more than 25 churches and hundreds of houses were looted and set on fire, leaving hundreds of families traumatized and homeless: "People lost everything they owned, many also lost hope, trust and their dreams were destroyed forever because of an alleged charge of blasphemy that has not yet been proven," said Michelle Chaudhry.
In order to help these people, the foundation is committed to supporting and rehabilitating the victims. Thanks to the donations received, a multi-stage process was initiated: initially by providing accommodation, hot meals, drinking water and personal hygiene items. The second phase, which is currently underway, will initiate the reconstruction process, including the restoration or reconstruction of houses. In addition, the Cecil & Iris Chaudhry Foundation (CICF) has set up a medical center in Jaranwala for children suffering from skin diseases and offers treatment and medicines. Efforts have also been made to alleviate children's psychological stress through play-based initiatives, especially during holidays such as Christmas and Easter. "We have covered the school costs (school fees, books, stationery, accommodation and food) for 25 children at a Catholic boarding school in a nearby town and are ready to take in more children if necessary," said the foundation's president. The aim is "to assist these families in order to enable them to reintegrate into society, even if they feel abandoned and betrayed by the state, which has failed to protect them. No one should ever experience what happened to these families. It is the duty of the state to protect and ensure the protection of all its citizens, regardless of their beliefs", he notes. "In this way," Chaudhry concludes, "the Foundation seeks to help families rebuild their lives, but also to restore their hope, their trust and their dreams". Meanwhile, some Christians in the local community are at the center of a controversial legal battle as they are accused of having violated the home of a Muslim man, suspected of being among the organizers of the August 2023 violence. According to Christians who demand a fair and transparent investigation, it is a manipulation with false accusations. However, as the case unfolds, there is optimism and belief in the Jaranwala Christian community that justice will prevail and believers will be exonerated. (PA) (Agenzia Fides, 25/5/2024)