Fire gutted a Christian TV station in Karachi, Pakistan on 24 November, leaving the three-room offices a smouldering wreck following a suspected arson attack.
The blaze, which officials report took nearly two hours to extinguish, appeared to specifically target valuable broadcasting instruments that the station uses to spread the Gospel message to the nation.
Javed William, the brother of Pastor Sarfraz William who is the owner of the affected broadcasting station Gawahi TV, said that the fire seemed to be a deliberate attack aimed at thwarting the Christian work of the station, “This is not an attack on us; it is an attack on Christianity. Whoever did this does not want God’s work to happen.”
Whilst no one was hurt in the incident, the station’s equipment, including computers and cameras, was completely destroyed along with furniture and books. There was also evidence that the network’s security cameras had been tampered with prior to the incident, and some computer hard disks were stolen. Assistant manager of Gawahi TV, Irfan Daniel remarked, “Someone did this with a lot of thought.”
Gawahi Television was established in February 2013 through donations from the Christian community. The station broadcasts Bible readings, Christian hymns and videos with the intention of, “spread[ing] the Gospel of Jesus Christ to people of all religions who live in Pakistan”. The channel, which regularly airs to approximately 12 million people, was working on programming for the Christmas period at the time of the attack.
Previous threats from suspected militants, demanding the closure of the station, were reported to the police by Gawahi TV management, but they did not investigate the threats or give any advice or help to increase security.
A charred but intact Bible was found amongst the wreckage, a fitting reminder of the permanence of the Gospel, even in the face of such raids.
Christian persecution in Pakistan occurs frequently, whether it be through community oppression from the Muslim-majority, discrimination against Christians in the workplace or the unfair implementation of the country’s notorious “blasphemy laws”.
A recent report by the International Commission of Jurists has called on the Pakistan government to, “repeal all blasphemy laws … or amend them substantially so that they are consistent with international standards on freedom of expression; freedom of thought, conscience or religion; and equal protection of the law”.