Today we weep for Lahore, her children and families, and all who love peace.
The Easter bombing of a playground in Lahore, Pakistan has brought the subject of Christian persecution to the forefront of the world’s attention, because the group responsible for it claimed that they were targeting Christians. The horrific attack is one more event in an increasing tide of persecution faced by those who follow Christ. This from a CNN report in January:
Last year was the most violent for Christians in modern history, rising to “a level akin to ethnic cleansing,” according to a new report by Open Doors USA, a watchdog group that advocates for Christians.
In total, the survey found that more than 7,100 Christians were killed in 2015 for “faith-related reasons,” up 3,000 from the previous year, according to the group’s analysis of media reports and other public information as well as external experts. Open Door’s report is independently audited by the International Institute of Religious Freedom.
The group’s report defines Christian persecution “as any hostility experienced as a result of one’s identification with Christ.” Open Doors found this persecution ranged from imprisonment, torture, beheadings and rape to the loss of home and assets, the loss of a job, or even rejection from a community.
These deadly Easter attacks serve as another reminder of the costs Christians are paying around the world to follow Jesus, especially in areas where Islamic extremism is prevalent. In an article that gives an overview of the history and current state of persecution against Christians in Pakistan, Kathy Gannon of the AP says:
In predominantly Christian neighborhoods, radical Muslims have carried out attacks based on trumped-up charges of blasphemy, which is punishable by death. Christians are routinely accused by radical Muslims of trying to undermine Pakistan as an Islamic state. There have been reports of forced conversions of Christian girls. In January, a girl was killed and two were injured when they refused the advances of three Muslim men, who ran them over upon learning they were Christian. An Islamabad-based think tank, The Jinnah Institute, called the violence “some of the worst mob attacks against minority communities in Pakistan.” Christian neighborhoods in Punjab and Islamabad “have seen mass attacks fueled by hate speech. These attacks have led to widespread destruction of homes and properties,” he said.
It must be said, however, that the Christian angle should not be overplayed. Though the group claiming responsibility said they were targeting Christians, the majority of those who died were Muslims. If we are going to respond truly as Christian people, we must weep for our Muslim neighbors as well as for the Christ-followers who perished.
We have not focused our attention on writing about persecution much on Internet Monk, and there is a simple reason.
I don’t know what to say. That’s the God’s-honest truth. These kinds of tragedies leave me speechless.
But as I have thought about this subject, and particularly this attack on Easter, I knew I must write something about it.
I concluded that the one appropriate response at this time is for me to practice lament.
Let us express our anger, our frustration, our sense of helplessness, our profound sorrow and grief to God. As Walter Brueggemann writes, “The lament psalm is a Jewish refusal of silence before God. This Jewish refusal of silence is not cultural, sociological, or psychological, but it is in the end, theological. It is a Jewish understanding that an adequate relationship with God permits and requires a human voice that will speak out against every wrong perpetrated either on earth or by heaven.”
For these things I weep;
my eyes flow with tears;
for a comforter is far from me,
one to revive my courage;
my children are desolate,
for the enemy has prevailed.
It is time we lift our voice in honest prayer to God.
No, not there Lord!
Anywhere but there!
Anywhere but in a park with children playing, laughing, running free!
They should be free…
Lord, shouldn’t they be free?
Free and never afraid of such darkness?
Free to show their moms and dads how big and grown up they are?
Big enough to swing, to ride the carousel, to turn a cartwheel
and brush the tousled hair from their eyes?
They are not big enough for this
For blood and body parts and shattered eardrums
For dust and chaos, tears and wide-eyed panic
For black terror like Friday noon to fall on Easter Sunday?
Though you have bid them come,
it is not right that they should come to you like this, Lord.
Not like this.
Never like this!
And we feel helpless.
We have no one to curse.
We cannot look him in the eye,
the stupid coward who blew himself to bits.
What can possibly bring “justice” in a case like this?
God, we are fed up, and we have no idea what to do.
And where are you?
We demand to know!
Of all days, the day when you broke the power of death!
Of all days, when every surprising appearance brought joy and gladness!
Of all days, when you laid aside the graveclothes and walked free,
Why couldn’t they play free?