I thought I'd share this for any of you who haven't seen it, it's a photoblog by humanitarian photographer Gary Chapman and his wife Vivian Chapman (a writer and producer based in Atlanta). They went in the aftermath of the incident at Gojra to record through their experiences what the persecuted Christians in Pakistan were going through.
I love photography, looking through the eyes of the photographer is an intense experience for me. I see an almost indifferent dispair; there's a hardened sadness chiseled as though permanently into the faces of those he photographed. As though they're saying to us: "this is what life is for us.. this is inevitable".
But they have Jesus.
They still have Jesus and nothing can take that away. Why do you think Christians who are persecuted for being Christians in Pakistan are still that.. Christian. Try as they might, Jesus stays with us.
Check out Gary Chapman's Blog here.
In August 2009, an angry mob of extremist Muslims torched Christian homes in Gojra, Pakistan. At least seven people were shot to death or burned alive.
A few days after the attacks, American photographer Gary S. Chapman visited the area with his wife, Vivian, to document the aftermath.
“I want people to see my images and feel both discomfort and compassion at the same time,” he said recently. “I want them to try and see themselves in the situation I am witnessing.”
The violence in Gojra was incited by rumors of the desecration of pages of the Quran at a Christian wedding, police said. An investigation determined the allegations were baseless.
Chapman’s photos from the village are part of an ongoing project he started in 2005. He was in Pakistan to photograph relief efforts after a massive earthquake killed 86,000 people when he began to hear about the mistreatment of the Christian minority.
Through an interpreter, he learned about instances of rape, the lack of job and education opportunities, and people being beaten for drinking from the same water fountain as Muslims.
At large gatherings, the Christians would sometimes hire armed guards for protection. Despite their hardships, Chapman says many remain optimistic.
"I have been encouraged by the Christians of Pakistan that remain faithful, forever hopeful in the midst of real persecution," he said.
He has been to Pakistan four times now. During one trip, he visited a woman who had taken in several Christian children orphaned by the earthquake. Shortly after he left, an arsonist set fire to her home.
“Fortunately no one was hurt in the attack,” Chapman said. “But I had to ask myself if our presence there caused the attack. Was it a reprisal?”
Hoping to avoid bringing harm to the people who open up to him, he photographs many of his subjects in a way that obscures their faces. He also wears traditional Pakistani clothing and grows a long beard in order to fit in.
“After seeing the injustices in Pakistan, I’ve learned not to take my freedom for granted concerning my faith, livelihood, or even where I live,” Chapman said. “I am thankful for everything.”
– Brett Roegiers, CNN
Here are the pictures:
All photographs are copyright to Gary S. Chapman.
Taken from CNN's Belief Blog:
By Vivian Padilla-Chapman, Special to CNN
(CNN) - Imagine living in a country where being born into your family's faith could thwart your chances of learning to read, narrow your employment opportunities to jobs like trash collector, street sweeper, or brick maker, and restrict you to drinking from separate water fountains in your village.
In 2009 in Pakistan, I discovered that these issues as well as life-threatening circumstances are daily challenges for Pakistani Christians who live in segregated “colonies” and make up about 2% of the majority Muslim population.
I’m a Latina, born in Spanish Harlem and raised in Brooklyn during the 1960s. I know what it’s like to face discrimination as a minority, but how would I face this kind of persecution for my faith? What would daily life be like under that tension? Could I hold on to my faith?
These were the questions on my mind as I heard witnesses talk about the devastation of two Christian villages where homes had been looted and burned to the ground by extremist radical Muslims while local police stood unresponsive.
I was assisting my husband, photographer Gary S. Chapman, who often works with humanitarian nonprofits on relief and development projects overseas. We arrived with a relief team only a few days after the attacks.
Walking among still-smoldering piles of rubble in Gojra, villagers told of devastation by extremist throngs descending on the streets, raping, pillaging and setting homes ablaze.
Through an interpreter, we talked with a 32-year-old father of four young children who became a hero to 70 women and children. As a violent mob appeared on their street, young girls and women clutching their children began to run into his family’s three-story home.
Pleading with his father to give him the shotgun and shells that were in storage, he argued for protecting the women seeking refuge, “If we allow the mob to come into our house, what will they do? If they kill everyone in the house, then we will have to answer to God why we didn’t protect them. Give me the gun. God I put my life in your hands. I’m going to protect these lives. Help me.”
Incredulous, I wondered how I would have reacted. Would I have been brave? What would I have done? What could I have done?
The young father said he ran to the roof discharging rounds into the air for several hours. When the mob finally left, only two rounds remained.
Another family just blocks away had no such protector. Seven people, including several children, were locked into their house and burned alive. Villagers said they could hear their screams.
I’m a Christian and familiar with Jesus’ words, “Love your enemies and pray for those that persecute you,” but at that moment, those words seemed impossible. Honestly, I don’t know that I could sincerely love my enemies. I’m not sure that I could even pray for them.
Although Pakistan’s constitution guarantees religious freedom, blasphemy laws call for the death sentence of anyone who insults the prophet Muhammad or Islam. These laws are often used against Christians by jealous or disgruntled coworkers or neighbors. The incident that sparked the violence in Gojra stemmed from a rumor that a Christian had committed blasphemy at a wedding. It was never proven.
As the relief team took assessments for supplies, our interpreter, also a Christian, turned to me and said, “We see the destruction of their homes, but not the destruction of their lives. Jesus will never leave us or forsake us.”
Under the same circumstances, would I draw strength from that promise? Could I endure those kinds of struggles and hardships? I hope so.
The strong faith that undergirds this community is the kind of faith that I want to sustain me.
Beautifully written. I love the last line: "the strong faith that undergirds this community is the kind of faith that I want to sustain me". We come from that community brothers and sisters. Let's not forget that faith here in Canada or wherever we are in the world. Our family is counting on us to remember and lift them up to God.