Christian residents of several neighborhoods in northern Pakistan have been sent letters “inviting” them to abandon Christianity and join Islam – or be killed, according to a new report from Voice of the Martyrs, the ministry to persecuted Christians around the world.
“There have been numerous threats sent to Peshawar’s Kohati area,” sources for VOM reported this week. “The letters say if we don’t become Muslim we will be killed.”
The unsigned threats began several weeks ago, when residents of Peshawar, the capital of the North-West Frontier Province, reported receiving the letters threatening suicide bombings if they did not convert.
The letters went to Christian residents of the Tailgodom, Sandagodom and Goalgodom neighborhoods, according to a report from Assist News Service.
“These letters sent a wave of fear and uncertainty among the Christian residents of these … areas,” Kamran George, a Peshawar government member, told the news service.
Each of the districts houses an estimated 2,000 Christians.
“Through this open letter you are openly invited to convert to Islam and quit Christianity, the religion of infidels,” the letter said. Readers could “ensure your place in heaven” by adopting Islam.
“We will wipe out your slum on next Friday, August, 10th, 2007. And you, yourself would be responsible for the destruction of your men and material. Get ready! This is not a mere threat, our suicide bombers are ready to wipe out your name and signs from the face of earth. Consider it be the Knock of Death,” it said.
Although that deadline has passed, Christians still fear the threat, a government official told Assist. He noted that a man dressed in Pakistan’s national dress managed to get inside a recent meeting at St. John Catholic Church in Peshawar, but fled immediately when he saw police.
George said the threats were prompted by the suggestion from U.S. presidential candidate Tom Tancredo that the U.S. threaten to bomb Muslim holy cities of Mecca and Medina in retaliation if there would be a terrorist nuclear attack on the United States.
“We would be pleased to send those to Hell who dared casting malicious eye on Khana Kaba (Mecca, Saudi Arabia) and Prophet’s Mosque (Medina, Saudi Arabia). There is death here (in Pakistan) for the agents and followers of the religion of Americans (Christians),” said the letter, written in Urdu, Pakiston’s national language, Assist reported.
“We would wipe out the Churches from the face of the earth because our mosques, seminaries and children are being martyred on the directions of United States. We would write a new history with the blood of Infidels. Our suicide bombers, lovers of Holy Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) are ready to strike churches, to protect the sanctity of Mecca and Medina, and pride of Islam.
“These suicide bombers would strike at any time or day. It is our first and foremost Jihad (Islamic Holy war) to assassinate and eradicate the infidels from the face of earth,” the letter said.
Additional police have been assigned in the region, the same area where a surge of violence followed the recent occupation and storming of the nation’s Red Mosque. There, as WND reported, radical leaders faced off against Pakistani forces and said the 1,800 children in the compound had taken oaths on the Quran to fight to the death.
Abdul Rashid Ghazi
Followers of Abdul Rashid Ghazi, leader of the pro-Taliban mosque, staged the standoff after a crackdown was launched on the mosque for a months-long campaign to expand Islamic religious law.
A minority member of Pakistan’s parliament, Pervaiz Masih, even raised the issue of the threats in the legislature’s National Assembly, reading the letter to lawmakers and calling on the government to note the insecurity it had created.
The Voice of the Martyrs cited a list of other attacks on Christians in Pakistan in recent weeks that also have raised concerns.
For example, the organization reported that Muslims had confessed and apologized for attacking a church in the Punjab region, but have to this point offered no compensation for injuring Christians and damaging their building.
Reports confirmed seven Christians were hurt and Christian literature was destroyed at a Salvation Army church north of Faisalabad in the attack, and attackers admitted they had planned to burn a page of the Quran – which can bring a life prison sentence in Pakistan – and then blame the Christians of the community.
The attack happened just as Christians were assembling for a worship meeting, and several victims were hit with axes. Bibles and hymn books also were destroyed.
Just weeks earlier, a formal court session in Lahore also sentenced a Pakistani Christian to death for blasphemy. Authorities said Younis Masih, a Christian from Chungi Amar Sadu in Lahore, was accused of blasphemy of the Prophet Muhammad.
Although no one has yet been executed by the state for blasphemy, several have been murdered by extremists.
Christian Solidarity Worldwide says Pakistan’s blasphemy laws are regularly misused as a means of settling scores or targeting religious minorities.
The blasphemy laws require only an accusation by one man against another for a case to be filed. In almost all cases the charges are entirely fabricated. Masih was outspoken against incidents of rape committed against Christian girls, and is a Christian himself. It is believed these were the reasons he was accused of blasphemy, according to reports.
VOM is a non-profit, interdenominational ministry working worldwide to help Christians who are persecuted for their faith, and to educate the world about that persecution. Its headquarters are in Bartlesville, Okla., and it has 30 affiliated international offices.
It was launched by the late Richard and Sabina Wurmbrand, who started smuggling Russian Gospels into Russia in 1947, just months before Richard was abducted and imprisoned in Romania where he was tortured for his refusal to recant Christianity.
He eventually was released in 1964 and the next year he testified about the persecution of Christians before the U.S. Senate’s Internal Security Subcommittee, stripping to the waist to show the deep torture wound scars on his body.
The group that later was renamed The Voice of the Martyrs was organized in 1967, when his book, “Tortured for Christ,” was released.