28 March 2015

Pakistani Christians Fight Back

MARCH 24, 2015 

LAHORE, Pakistan — LAST Monday, this city was briefly overrun with bands of sloganeering, stick-wielding youths. The demonstrators threw stones at police officers, burned car tires and smashed windows. One gang even plundered a 7Up truck, guzzling its goods before transfixed TV cameras. (I watched the footage — slow-mo jets of sparkly liquid, with strains of horror-movie music playing in the background — that night on the Internet.) There was a euphoric edge to the riots, apparent even when they took a grotesquely violent turn with the lynching of two men.

Who were these vandals? And what, if anything, did their actions demonstrate?

If you went by the original news bulletins, they were Christians reacting to a suicide bombing the day before of two churches in Youhanabad, a low-income area of Lahore that is home to some 100,000 Christians. A faction of the Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, which killed 15 people and injured dozens. The rioters’ anger was directed at Pakistan’s state and society, which had repeatedly failed to protect them from Islamist extremists. According toone estimate, in the last two years there have been 36 targeted attacks on Pakistani Christians, 265 Christian deaths from suicide bombings and 21 “persecutions” of Christians under Pakistan’s blasphemy law. To their credit, several TV anchors ran heart-rending montages of recent incidents in which Muslim mobs or terrorists had shot, bombed or burned Pakistani Christians.

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