The Christians of Sangla Hill in Pakistan were a community under siege last night after a Muslim mob rampaged through the town, burning churches and a Roman Catholic compound.
Father Samson Dilawar, parish priest of the Roman Catholic Church of Nazooli-i-Rooh, the Blessing of the Sacred Spirit, was still dressed in the cassock in which he fled when the mob knocked down the gate to the church compound on Saturday.
“I heard the mullahs had been telling people over loudspeakers, ‘We are guardians of the Koran and it is our foremost duty to teach a lesson to those kafirs’,” he said. “Then they came to my door.”…
They shouted insults at the Christians, calling them “kafirs” and “chucha”, the abusive term for non-Muslims and untouchables, and “kuta”, which means dogs.
Local police and the Christian community agreed on how the violence began: a Christian man had spent several days gambling with Muslim men and had won a small fortune.
Embittered, his opponents spread the rumour that he had set fire to the koran mahal, a box for preserving torn pages of the Koran. Soon the alleged deed was broadcast by mullahs from mosques.
Fr Dilawar fled to the nearby convent where he hid with a group of nuns. “Ours was the only door that they did not try,” he said. “It was luck. That is how our lives were saved.”
His residence was doused in chemicals and set alight, gutting the building and destroying century-old documents.
In the same compound, St Anthony’s Primary School, which has 1,500 Muslim and Christian pupils, was ransacked and burnt.
The same treatment was meted out to the church, convent, boarding house and medical centre. The feet were snapped off statues of Jesus, metal crucifixes were buckled and nuns’ habits torched….
The beams of his parsonage were open to daylight yesterday. “Religious fanatics have stirred this up,” said Mr Pervez, who has been in the area for 15 years.
The rampage extended to three other churches on the outskirts of Sanga Hill. “We told the authorities that there was going to be trouble,” said Mr Pervez. “So they sent four policemen who did nothing to stop the mayhem.”