Hundreds of houses in a poor Christian neighborhood on the outskirts of Lahore were set on fire by a large and violent crowd.Unfortunately, it’s not the first time that such incidents occur in Pakistan: eight people were killed in a similar incendiary attack against a Christian neighborhood in Gojra, in August 2009.
The charge of “blasphemy” is often raised as an excuse, which in fact is used to conceal personal grievances or economic interests involving lands, homes and businesses of the Christian minority; Pakistani Christians are particularly poor, helpless and exposed. Many residents of the colony - a Christian area nearby Lahore – work as domestic workers or farm laborers. They were alerted of what was going to happen just in time to flee from the flames.
Many were frightened and ran away barefoot, just trying to save their numerous children. One of the houses destroyed in the fire has just been completed the day before, in order to accommodate a young bride who was preparing her marriage. Her family was building it with patience, saving pocket money: all her belongings are now reduced to ashes, including the new fridge -which is essential in the heat of Lahore-, bought with a lot of efforts and sacrifices. "We ran outdoors barefoot, as we couldn’t carry anything of what we had at home"
A woman cries speaking with the coordinator of the Community of Sant'Egidio. She is visiting the area together with a group of the Community in order to bring food, potable water and solidarity.
The scenario in front of their eyes is dramatic. "There is smoke and ash everywhere - she continues to tell in her report - you can’t imagine how pitiful is their situation. They basically need everything".
The youth of the Community of Sant'Egidio in Lahore immediately decided to travel across the city when they heard the sad news, in order to bring material relief and sympathy to the Christians living in that area. They met hungry and terrified children, disappointed teenagers and elderly women who sat dumbstruck in the rubble of their homes.
They distributed food supplies and safe drinking water, as they spent time to listen to their pain and their anguish because people lost everything, weren’t totally undefended and thus became unwitting targets of a dreadful violence.
The group of Sant’Egidio could meet many of the victims, and they kept on encouraging everyone: "We are with you, your life is dear to us, you are like our brothers and sisters; we won’t leave you alone, many people are praying for you all over the world". These aren’t just talks.