The intruders wore masks and carried guns. They went door to door, through the narrow and dusty alleyways, asking if there were any Christians inside.
When the terrified faces inside replied yes, they poured chemicals on the small, redbrick homes of Episcopalians and Evangelicals, setting them ablaze. In some cases, they didn’t bother with the question. Instead, they opened fire and hurled rocks, forcing families to flee in a panic — moments before fresh flames consumed their homes as well. When the attackers were done, nine people had been killed and 45 homes lay smoldering and destroyed in the clustered Christian colony in Gojra, a town in central Punjab, marking the worst anti-Christian violence Pakistan has seen in recent years.
A tearful woman crouches over rubble outside the attackers’ first target. “Look what they have done to our church,” says Shahida William, the wife of the pastor, pointing at the deeply blackened one-room Faith Bible Church. Inside, bricks are strewn across the floor. The stinging smell of the chemicals used still hangs in the air. A few houses down, Ethel Gill points to nine bullet holes that have been punched into the top story of her home. “They threw rocks and bricks at us. Then they opened fire. We cowered for safety and ran away, jumping over roofs of other houses. We eventually found sanctuary in a church.” She shows the remains of her Urdu language Bible: “Look at our holy book. The pages are all burnt. Is this not desecration?”