Updated December 25th, 2023 at 17:21 IST
Fear and Grief Grip Pakistani Christians in Jaranwala - A Shocking Tale!
The Bhatti family would not be celebrating Christmas with their usual excitement and joy this year after Muslim mobs attacked their house in August.
The Bhatti family would not be celebrating Christmas with their usual excitement and joy this year after Muslim mobs attacked their house in August. Ratan Bhatti, 40, says his family still experienced "fear and grief" after the attacks on Christian families and churches in the Jaranwala district in Pakistan’s Punjab province, prompted by allegations of blasphemy. The neighbourhood remained quiet and sombre during this festive season.
“Christmas is not like it used to be. Every house used to be illuminated, and decorated with stars. Nothing like that this year. People are still in fear and grief. Some children have started going to school, but many have been left in fear." said Ratan Bhatti, a survivor of the Jaranwala attack. Further, Rattan added, who has two sons, "My children are studying in Lahore, but what are we supposed to do? We had a very difficult time. We decided to do what we thought was best for us and have our children leave and go to some other Christian school, where they may be safe. But we were not safe in this neighbourhood. Our biggest church was burnt. It is very difficult to forget that grief.”
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Vaneeka Bhatti wanted to dress up and celebrate Christmas like in previous years, but memories of the attacks still haunted her. “Fear will always be there in our hearts forever. Even if we think about that day, we are frightened. If we woke up at night and that day came to mind, we couldn’t go back to sleep. We were preparing for Christmas nevertheless," said Vaneeka Bhatti, another survivor. Furthermore, the 22-year-old added, "We longed to dress up. We did want to celebrate but the fear wasn’t going away. We went to church on 24th December and prayed, but we remained fearful that something may happen.”
Khalid Mukhtar, a local priest, said people’s spirits were low, but efforts were being made to encourage people to come out and celebrate Christmas. "We tried to motivate people to celebrate the festival with traditional fervour. We were determined to celebrate it. We did it by the grace of God,” said the Pakistani priest, reported Associated Press. Furthermore, he added, “People were not as enthusiastic as they used to be. People were still traumatized and in shock over what happened to them. We were yet to see the traditional spirit of Christmas."
Police arrested 129 suspects after a Muslim mob angered over an alleged desecration of the Quran attacked churches and homes of minority Christians in August, prompting authorities to summon soldiers to restore order. Under the country’s blasphemy laws, anyone found guilty of insulting Islam or Islamic religious figures could be sentenced to death. While authorities have yet to carry out a death sentence for blasphemy, often just the accusation could cause riots and incite mobs to violence, lynching, and killings.
Published December 24th, 2023 at 21:35 IST