He looks like an ordinary Pakistani, with dark hair, eyes, and skin, but this is no ordinary man.
The 25-year-old father of four small children is a hero to 70 women and children whose lives he saved with a shotgun and self-controlled smarts. He stood on his balcony for almost four hours fending off angry, violent mobs bent on destroying a Christian colony in Gojra city. There, Muslim extremists led thousands in a rampage of violence, looting, and torching that left nine dead and hundreds of people homeless.
When our assessment team from SWI first came to Gojra to witness the devastation left in the wake of such mayhem, the shooter had gone into hiding. We cannot even mention his name to protect him from sure retribution if extremists identify and find him. On our second visit, our contact had arranged an interview. We asked the shooter why he was willing to take the risk to meet with us. He said he wanted his story to get out so that the rest of the world might know the perils of living without civil freedoms Americans enjoy, but mostly take for granted. Then he began to tell us about the decision he faced that fateful day, August 1, 2009.
Like mice chased by alley cats, young girls and women toting their children began to race into his three-story house. As the mob appeared on their street, he knew he had only a few minutes to do something. Pleading with his father to give him the shotgun and case of 88 shells that were in storage, he argued, “If we allow them 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. I said, ‘God I put my life in your hands. I’m going to protect these lives. Help me.’”
He ran up the stairs to the third-floor balcony firing twice in the air. The rabble stopped in their tracks momentarily surprised by the show of resistance. Then a few brazenly moved forward. Having once served in the army, the experienced shooter began discharging rounds over their heads, just close enough to hold them back. For almost four hours he stood as a sentinel blasting towards any threat. When the mob finally left, only two rounds remained. He said his heart was racing, but he knew he had done what was right.
Listening through an interpreter, our team was incredulous, wondering what life would be like going forward for this young man who had stepped up so bravely. While he saved his home and the houses on the rest of the street, the violent rabble had torched his employer’s business just blocks away, completely destroying the building along with all equipment. He was out of a job, but he had saved his family and many others. For that, he was so grateful.
If you would like to help the persecuted Christians in Gojra, a relief team will be bringing in supplies and food in a couple of weeks. Please go to www.swi.org for more information.
(Canon 5D2, 24-105mm @24mm, 1/80 sec, f4, ISO 320)
Article ©Vivian Padilla-Chapman
Photo ©Copyright Gary S. Chapman 2009