“When our Christian brothers or sisters are in church, they shouldn’t have to be worrying about their security”
We were inspired to do this after seeing Muslims form human chains to protect Coptic Christians in Egypt, when they were being attacked. We wanted to allow our Christian brothers and sisters here in Pakistan to have a moment of peace in church, when they are trying to connect with God and shouldn’t have to be worrying about their security. And of course, we also wanted to send a message to the Taliban and to the Pakistani government. To the Taliban: We disagree with you; to the government: If you don’t take effective measures to protect houses of God, we’ll have to do it ourselves.Of course, participants were afraid for their security too, but the whole point was to show that we were ready to take a risk that should be taken by the security forces. They should take whatever measures are necessary to protect all holy houses. During both events, there were many Muslims among us, but also Hindus and atheists. When the mass ended, the Christian worshippers came and joined us. We then had Muslims scholars, both Sunni and Shia, make speeches condemning the Peshawar attack.While our movement is secular, it was important for us to include Muslim scholars as a way to get the attention of the public on this issue. The Pakistani Taliban have said that the Peshawar church attack is perfectly in line with sharia law. So we wanted to hear from scholars to give an authoritative view of what Islam truly is.Our movement has caught the attention of a large group of scholars called the Pakistan Ulema Council. They have called us and declared full support; in fact, they’re sending us a delegation to join us for our next human chain, in Islamabad this Sunday. [The collective is also planning a fourth human chain in Peshawar]. They’ve also asked their members all over the country, even in tribal areas, to talk about minority rights in their prayers next Friday, which is Eid al-Adha [a major Muslim holiday]. This is a huge step!
“Having people from other faiths support us was very encouraging”
I myself go to church in Lahore, and after the Peshawar bombing, our community was quite shaken. Still, the very next Sunday, the church was just as full. We wanted to reaffirm our resolve. And now, to have people from other faiths come and support us, this was very encouraging.I think it’s encouraging not just for us, but for all the minorities in Pakistan. It reminds us that there are enlightened minds in Pakistan, that most people do not want terrorism.The government needs to find a strategy that works to counter terrorism, and if that strategy is dialogue, be clear about what terms it will negotiate on. In the meantime, it also needs to make efforts to educate the population about minorities. For example, the government should revamp schools’ curriculum, so that religious minorities are no longer portrayed as Pakistan’s foes, and encourage people to stop using certain terms derogatory terms for Christians.