A Muslim mob has set fire to a church and looted its school in response to Western acts of “blasphemy” against Muhammad. Reports from Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province near the border with Afghanistan remain unclear on the size and motivation of the mob, however, the Church of Pakistan and the security services police have confirmed the assault and looting of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church and St Paul’s High School in Mardan.
On 21 Sept 2012 the mob, a several thousand strong mob stormed the compound after Friday prayers. The Diocese of Peshawar reports the church was set alight and the homes of its two priests and the school’s headmaster were destroyed. The school, which serves the Christian and Muslim community, was ransacked and newly installed computers taken away by the mob.
“The damage has been very severe, and we will need to rebuild. We are asking for people around the world to keep us in your prayers,” said Bishop Humphrey Peters of Peshawar.
The Moderator of the Church of Pakistan, Bishop Samuel Azariah released a statement condemning the attack, saying the church burnings would damage “relations between the communities in Pakistan and around the world.
“The government and faith leaders in Pakistan have a role to play in education people that they have the right to protest, but to damage property and terrify people in this way is completely wrong. The government and faith leaders should provide the lead in preventing attacks,” Bishop Azariah said.
On 12 Sept 2011 a remote-controlled explosive device placed against the wall of St Paul’s detonated, causing one wall of the church to collapse. Two policemen were reported injured in the midnight blast, which sparked panic among revelers in the streets celebrating the second day of the Muslim Eid festival.
Police blamed the attack on Islamists. Sources in the Church of Pakistan told Anglican Ink they believed the 2010 blast was in retaliation to a proposed Koran burning by Florida Pentecostal minister Terry Jones.
In August 2008, St Paul’s withdrew from the Diocese of Peshawar when its rector, Peter Majeed was consecrated as Bishop of the Northern Diocese Mardan by the former Church of Pakistan Bishop of Karachi, the Rt. Rev. Arne Rudvin.
Bishop Rudvin, who had been the Lutheran Bishop of Mardan before the Lutheran Church joined Anglicans to form the United Church of Pakistan, consecrated Bishop Majeed to re-establish the Lutheran succession in Pakistan. The attempt to reestablish a Lutheran church in Pakistan has not been recognized by the Danmission, the Norwegian Mission Society, the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Mission, and the Church of Scotland which “condemned the totally illegal consecration” and does not recognize Bishop Majeed’s claims.
On 7 Sept 2008 Bishop Majeed was installed and took possession of St Paul’s Church in Mardan, Bishop Rudvin’s former see. On 19 Sept 2010, a Pakistani court permitted Bishop Majeed to keep possession of the colonial era church and its adjacent properties. However, the Diocese of Peshawar has appealed the ruling.