I am so encouraged when I see things like this, a group of Muslims in Pakistan forming a human chain around a Christian church to protect it from attack and protest against the horrific suicide bombing of a nearby church a few weeks ago that killed 78 and injured more than 100.
Hand in hand as many as 200-300 people formed a human chain outside the St Anthony’s Church adjacent to the District Police Lines at the Empress Road, in a show of solidarity with the victims of the Peshawar church attack two weeks back, which resulted in over a 100 deaths. The twin suicide attack on All Saints church occurred after Sunday mass ended and is believed to be the country’s deadliest attack on Christians.
Standing in the small courtyard of St Anthony’s Church, as Mufti Mohammad Farooq delivered a sermon quoting a few verses of the Holy Quran that preached tolerance and respect for other beliefs, Father Nasir Gulfam stepped right next to him after having conducted a two hour long Sunday service inside the church. The two men stood should to shoulder, hand in hand as part of the human chain that was formed outside the church not just as a show of solidarity but also to send out a message, ‘One Nation, One Blood’.
As part of an attempt to sensitize the public at large, the human chain was the second such event after a similar had been organized in Karachi last week outside the St Patrick’s Cathedral by an organization called Pakistan For All – a collective of citizens concerned about the growing attacks on minorities.
“Well the terrorists showed us what they do on Sundays. Here we are showing them what we do on Sundays. We unite,” said Mohammad Jibran Nasir, the organizer who made the calls for the event on social media.
We need more of this. And atheists should be there shoulder to shoulder with them as well (though in Pakistan, being openly atheist is extremely dangerous, so I don’t blame anyone there for not showing up). But we need to show solidarity in defense of human rights, full stop. And that includes the freedom to practice one’s religion (or not to practice one, of course). There are good and decent people in all large groups, and vile ones as well. We need to join forces with those who value freedom, equality and justice regardless of whether we disagree with them about religion.