The enraged mob had already started to scale the walls of the Catholic compound in Sangla Hill when the Rev. Samson Dilawar hurriedly ushered the nuns, teachers, and 23 teenage students to safety.
The group crammed into a small upstairs room of the convent in eastern Punjab Province. Out on the roof, Dilawar watched in horror as about 1,500 men swarmed across the mission, destroying everything in their path.
The Muslim crowd, incensed by rumors that a Christian had desecrated copies of the Koran, tore open the doors of the Holy Spirit church, smashed the marble altar, and shattered the stained-glass windows. They torched Dilawar’s residence and the neighboring St. Anthony’s Girls school. Within moments flames were licking the walls and black smoke filled the sky.
An hour later, Dilawar recalled, the mob crashed through the convent door and he retreated into the locked room where the nuns were praying.
”They tried to break the door down, but did not succeed. Otherwise, we could have all been killed,” he said Thursday, sitting on a grassy patch outside the vandalized convent.
The violence that swept across Sangla Hill, a market town 140 miles south of the capital, Islamabad, on Nov. 12 has rocked Pakistan’s small Christian community.
It has also highlighted the fragile position of religious minorities in this overwhelmingly Muslim country.
Read it all.