15 March 2015 was the worst day in the history of Youhannabad, when terrorists attacked Christ Church and St John’s Church, killing more than 20 and leaving more than 60 injured. One of the splinter groups of Tehrik-e-Taliban claimed responsibility for those suicide bombings.

On that day, smoke, fire, the smell of blood, corpses, chaos, fear and helplessness could be seen everywhere in the community of about 100,000 Christian people. The police and the law enforcement agencies as usual played their conventional role by giving statements and running here and there on big vehicles.

Innocent Christians were struggling to find their loved ones. The main streets of Youhannabad were crowded with people to protest against the brutal attacks carried out by the cowardly terrorists.

An estimated 500 to 600 Christians were present in both the churches at the time of bombing. The security guards standing on the front gates sacrificed their lives and saved hundreds of people. Akash Masih, a 20 year-old Christian, was volunteering as guard at St John’s Church who pushed the suicide bomber several feet back, not letting him enter into the church building. During this duel, the attacker blew himself up, killing Akash and several others in the courtyard of the church. After a second’s difference there was another bang at Christ Church when the suicide bomber wanted to enter into the church premises but Yousaf Masih, Ex-President of Youhannabad’s Merchant Association and an active member of the Christ Church did not let the bomber get into the church. There were many people nearby watching and trying to stop the bomber who was trying to climb the church wall. Yousaf Masih pulled him down and dragged him several meters away from the main gate of the church. Meanwhile, the bomber blew himself up and killed several people along with Yousaf Masih, however, the people inside the church remained safe, though there was sudden chaos and everyone was running for safety.

Right after the incident, the police claimed that their security men saved churches for not allowing suicide bombers to enter the buildings, however, it was the local Christian guards and church members who sacrificed their lives and protected against the big loss of lives. The whole community of Youhannabad was on the roads shouting against the police and the government. In the meantime, some people recognised two strangers among them and believed them to be terrorists. The angry mob attacked, broke their bones and burnt them alive. Indeed, that was not an appreciable act, but the out of control mob did not listen to anyone, rather it was observed that some people were instigating the crowd to kill and burn. That unfortunate incident changed the direction of the whole scenario. Only an hour before, Christians were a distressed community because of the suicide bombings and suddenly the community turned into brutal butchers.

The government, police and the law enforcement agencies started arresting Christians who they deemed responsible for killing the two people, instead of thinking about the loss to the Christian community.

On most occasions the real culprits get away and only those innocent suffer. Even today, about 50 people are in prison, but have not been able to get bail. Several NGOs are engaged to help people in these cases but all are earning money in the name of innocent people. It has been one year now since the incident, but there are several issues to be addressed. What happened to the real case of bombing? Was there any relief for the families who lost their loved ones in the bombings? Where are the missing Christians? Was there any NGO or government organisation that supported and helped the families of victims in their social, moral and economic issues? What measures were taken by the government to protect minorities in Pakistan?

There is a need to bring amendments in the blasphemy laws and a need to give minorities the right to vote and elect their own representatives rather than to select ‘handpicked’ members who by any means cannot be their voice.

In the National Assembly of 1985, there were four selected Christian representatives and till to date, the number is the same. Is it not necessary to raise the number of seats for minority representation and to demarcate constituencies for minority members? Pakistani minorities and especially Christian minorities have played a very positive role in the development of the country. In the fields of education, health, bureaucracy, judiciary, armed forces and journalism, Christians have proved their expertise and patriotism. If ethnic minorities and marginalised sections of the society are not given proper space in the society, restlessness rises among them. As a result, the narrative of an ‘unsafe environment’ is strengthened and unfortunately the country is heading toward that point.