Youhanabad means “City of John”. I have visited it a number of times over the last few years; it is probably the biggest Christian population centre in the whole of Pakistan. The level of Christian dominance seems strange. Shops and pharmacies are usually given Islamic names – “Mashallah Pharmacy”, “Bismillah Cold Drinks”, that kind of thing – but when I was walking through the packed streets of Youhanabad a few years ago I noticed a shop with “Jesus Christ Pharmacy” written in large type over its door.
“Isn’t this strange?” I asked the owner when I went in to buy some Calpol for a sick child.
“Why?” he replied. “Everyone here is a Christian”.
This explains why, on Sunday 15th March, two suicide bombers decided to attack it. They approached the gates of two churches – one Catholic, one Protestant – and detonated their devices. 17 people are dead. Far more would have died, except that security guards wrestled with the attackers and prevented them from entering the compound; in doing so they gave their lives for the protection of those within, thereby providing an illustration, in the city of John, of the words of Jesus in the gospel of John: “Greater love has no man than this, than to lay down his life for his friends”.
Christian anger spilled over into the streets as Christian blood spilled over into the gutters. A mob formed, and two passers-by, wrongly accused of being part of the terrorist team, were lynched, and their bodies burned. Cars were smashed, rocks thrown, roads and motorways blocked as hate spilled out into the streets. In doing so the protestors in the city of John failed to heed the words of the apostle John: “Whoever loves his brother abides in the light…but whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness”.
The protests will fade away; they always do. The politicians will make speeches; they always do. The grieving Christians will continue with life; they always do. The words of Jesus in the gospel of John will continue to be true – true for the Christians, even those who mobbed innocent men to death; true for the terrorists, even those who consider Christians mere fodder for their suicide vests; true for everyone who tramps the dusty streets of the city of John:
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life”.