The Member of Parliament (MP) representing Bradford West, along with the Dean of Bradford, who serve as representatives of a city with a substantial Pakistani diaspora, visited Christian families in Jaranwala, Pakistan on Sunday, 1st October. These families had been affected by riots in early September and had received emergency aid from the charity Islamic Relief.
Over a thousand Christian families suffered from the mindless violence. Mobs set fire to churches and homes, causing families, including children and the elderly, to flee and seek refuge in open fields. The blaze also consumed their food supplies and belongings.
Islamic Relief, in collaboration with civil society groups, religious scholars, and the government of Pakistan, strongly condemned the attacks. In the aftermath of the Jaranwala riots, Islamic Relief’s emergency response team distributed food parcels and essential items, including hygiene kits, to displaced families. Both children and adults required psychosocial support after being exposed to extreme violence and witnessing the destruction of their homes.
Naz Shah MP and The Very Reverend Andy Bowerman, Dean of Bradford, paid a visit to Jaranwala to express their solidarity with and support for the affected communities. During their visit with Islamic Relief, they witnessed the unity of Pakistani communities in supporting their neighbours, regardless of their backgrounds, much like they did during the devastating floods that struck the country the previous year. This visit highlighted the crucial role that faith can play in alleviating tensions and fostering greater understanding between different faith communities. Islamic Relief’s faith-based approach to assisting communities offered a sensitive response to the local Christian community in Pakistan.
Naz Shah MP for Bradford West said: “No community religious or otherwise should be persecuted and driven out of their homes because of the faith they choose to believe in.
“This is why, as someone who campaigns so heavily on the rise of Islamophobia, I felt it was so important to stand up to the persecution some Christian communities have faced in this area of Pakistan.
“Being here, in person to provide aid, to show solidarity and also to ensure I can be a voice to call out such hatred makes me hope that these communities who have faced such struggles do not feel alone with no voice or support in their struggle.”
The Very Reverend, Andy Bowerman, said: “I am pleased to have been able to return to Pakistan with my friend Naz Shah MP to speak up for peace, which is at the heart of her and my faith. We pray that our short visit will be part of the narrative for change. Pakistan is a nation close to my heart having lived and worked there for a number of years. I stand with all people who are persecuted because of their religious belief.”
Islamic Relief Country Director, Asif Sherazi said: “We welcomed MP Naz Shah and The Very Reverend Andy Bowerman, to Pakistan to show their support and solidarity in helping to bring communities together.
“Inspired and guided by our Islamic faith and our values, we condemn all attacks on places of worship and religious communities, and we provide aid to vulnerable people regardless of their faith. No one should be a target because of their religion.”