A Methodist church in Undercliffe has remembered the plight Christians in the Shanti Nager village of Pakistan went through in 1997 in a special Sunday service.
Around ninety members of St Andrew’s Methodist Church on Otley Road in BD2 and people from the wider community came together on Sunday 6 February to remember the people whose lives were destroyed in the Shanti Nager attack.
It has been twenty-five years since an extremist mob of around 30,000 people destroyed around 80% of the Christian Shanti Nager village, and the neighbouring Tibba, two neighbourhoods in the Karachi East district of Karachi, Pakistan.
Hundreds of homes were burnt to the ground, four churches were destroyed, and thousands of Bibles were set on fire during the attack because of the villager’s beliefs.
The parish also used the special service as a way of raising awareness of the persecution of all minorities, including Christians and Hindus, in Pakistan in recent years.
The annual service to remember the incident is organised every year by patron of the church, Saleem Dutt, and Martin Bashforth, a trustee of St Andrew’s.
In 2005, Mr Dutt and Mr Bashforth founded the St Andrew’s Shanti Nager Trust, which sees around £3,400 sent over to the village yearly to pay for education for children and training for women.
For the past fifteen years or so, Mr Dutt’s family have also sent over a container filled with clothes to members of the community in Shanti Nager, so they get to celebrate Christmas in new garments.
In December they sent over a 500-kilo container with items donated from people across Bradford and Kirklees.
Ronnie Dutt, an independent mortgage broker and active member of St. Andrew’s parish, said: “The Sunday service was a way of praying for the incident that occurred twenty-five years ago and to remember the persecution of minorities in Pakistan, not just including Christians but everyone.
“We help the needy people in Shanti Nager by paying for children’s education, from school fees or books to uniforms, and paying for women to become skilled in sewing so they can earn a bit of money.
“It is important for me and my family, and the Parish at St. Andrew’s to remember the incident in Shanti Nagar all those years ago because for us, you couldn’t get closer to home.
“Our home, the village, was attacked. The service is to remember the people around the world who are persecuted for their religious beliefs, and it is to create awareness that these things do happen, and we should not shy away from the truth.
“Unless we are aware of these things, then we won’t be able to do anything about it. It is about creating awareness in the wider community that there are people with different beliefs and rather than looking at the differences, we should be living in harmony. That is what makes us stronger rather than creating a divide between ourselves.”