Very early Wednesday morning, a group of masked men set fire to the headquarters of Gawahi TV, a Christian television station in Karachi, Pakistan.
The building collapsed due to the fire. According to the staff of the television, the arson occurred at 2:30 AM, and the men were seen fleeing from the scene, after having set fire to the entire complex.
Some 12 million people regularly follow Gawahi TV, a broadcaster founded in February 2013 with the collaboration of both Catholics and Protestants, to “spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ to people of all religions living in Pakistan.” The channel broadcasts 24 hours a day, seven days a week, airing Bible reflections, hymns, sermons and Christian youth evangelism.
According to reports, the television station’s tenure was marked by constant threats of violence from Muslim radicals yet, despite many requests for protection, the authorities failed to provide the necessary security.
“We have halted our mission for the time being but we will not let our hopes die down. We were doing our God’s work and will continue to do so with the divine help,” said Javed Williams, who heads the Gawahi Mission Trust, which operates the station, together with his brother Sarfraz.
Several local representatives of the Catholic Church visited the scene of the fire, expressing dismay at the attack. Father John Arif, of the Diocese of Karachi, said: “It was disheartening to see the entire building and all the equipment burned. The channel was activated to communicate the word of God. There have been threats and now the matter is under investigation. We hope to soon see the channel again. We pray for peace and tolerance.”
Dr. Nazir Bhatti, the President of the Pakistan Christian Congress (PCC), denounced the arson, demanding the arrest of the criminals involved in the attack.
“It is surprising that Pakistani Electronic media owned by Muslims have again not bothered to cover setting on fire incident of Gawahi TV when minor issues are taken as breaking news by it,” Bhatti said.
“How could anyone do this?” asked one of the workers of the Gawahi station. “I saw with my tears-filled eyes the Holy Bible’s pages blackened by the fire. How could their heart allow them to set ablaze this truth?”
Karachi is the capital of Pakistan’s southern Sindh province, and home to numerous ethnic groups. In the past two and half decades, it has been hit by clashes between rival ethnic and political factions.
The building that housed Gawahi TV was located in the South District of Karachi, a Christian enclave amidst a Muslim majority of around 90%.
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome