This was some time ago; it was a dreary morning for me (which later turned out to be terrible). I had woken up around eight and was eager to get some breakfast. I had lost my job four months ago and was searching for a new one. After breakfast all I wanted to do was to get ready and go out for interviews.
It was the by the door that I first saw that letter. Someone had pushed that piece of paper from underneath the door. The writing was very crude, written in Urdu script by someone who was probably not much literate either.
As I begin to slowly make out the words (it was written badly), I understood how important that letter really was. The message though spread over a space of 3 pages, was simple enough “stop preaching or we will kill you and your family”. Plus, in that same letter, the author had given us a chance of redemption too, there was a magnanimous invitation to join the religion of Islam too, which if we accepted, would make us (us and whoever wrote the letter) brothers and sisters and therefore we would not be further threatened. If we refused, we will be made examples of.
I read that later four or five times. When you hold something like this in your hand, you contemplate a lot of things. Had I been living in the west, I might have not taken it as seriously as it sounded or may be even thought of it as a prank. But since I live in Pakistan, as a Christian I understand the letter is real enough and so is its message.
I took that letter to my father, it was the second time, we had received a threat, and we knew the reason. We were evangelizing among non-Christians, Muslims. The extremists do not appreciate us to begin with. I know why they did it, it was because people were responding to the message of the gospel.
So that morning, with that letter in our hands, me and my father prayed. We prayed for our family and we prayed for those who were sending these messages. We prayed that there may come a time when those who do not know Christ would know Christ. Typical Christian drama, as someone might suppose but in reality it is not. When you are being threatened to death, you do not waste time on aesthetics. Neither did we, we prayed because we meant it.
We did not go to the police, I guess we could have had, but in issues involving religion the police seldom helps. Besides we did not want anyone to be alarmed, especially our friends and relatives. As a start, I suggested that we do not even mention this to my younger sister and brother.
For weeks after this incident, even when I heard a firecracker go off, I called my brother to make sure he was fine. I still do that. I made a habit of looking over my shoulder when I walked to the market. I would call my parents often when they were out buying grocery, just to make sure everything was alright. My sleep become fragile, even a small noise would wake me up and I would get up and make sure that the door was locked.
Was I afraid? yes I was. I was terribly afraid for my family. Everyday I walked I imagined different scenarios in my head. What would I do if this happens? What would I do if that happens? And to be honest the scenarios didn’t even play right in my head. The fear of loss is great when your loved ones are involved. I did not know what I would do if something went wrong, if the people who sent that message decided to carry out their plans.
Then one day I thought it came very close. I remember turning towards my place and I saw the car which was parked not very far. Two men sitting in there, I thought they were looking straight at me. By this time you can call me a little paranoid. I hoped it was my paranoia and nothing else. To my relief, as I turned the corner, the car sped away.
But it was not many days later that some men did come to our home, this time they had weapons. They threatened my father, the same thing they had done with the letter, only this time they did it in person. Some other things also happened which I do not want to write here but in the end they did not use weapons. I was not at home when this happened, by that time I had found a job and was in the office.
If it had been up to me, I might have had temporarily stopped preaching but my father is a very brave man and I only hope I can do and handle the big moments of life like he did. I have always looked up to him in matters like this.
Despite all of this, we did not stop evangelizing, and the people still came forward.
Is it stupidity or being brave? I do not know, I leave that for you to decide. I do know though, we did what we felt was right, even though it scared us. But I have learnt it is not just blind faith or ambition which drove us and kept us doing our work rather it was the principle that we must not give into oppression. It was not just about preaching the gospel. It was more. It was about living with dignity and self-respect and I learnt through experience that we must not surrender to unjust demands. There are unjust men in the world, there will always be men like that.
There is a fine line between being stupid and being brave. Frankly I do not know where it begins or ends. May be its different with everyone? I know my father was the latter and I hope I am not the former.