The flood, the Taliban and the love of God
In Pakistan’s Swat valley, Christian responses to terrible floods have changed attitudes towards both Pakistani Christians and the Taliban.
In a formerly Taliban-controlled area of Pakistan, near the Afghanistan border, a terrible flood has had some unexpected consequences.
The Swat valley is often in the news as a province of Pakistan where Taliban support has traditionally been strong. In early 2010, a Pakistani army surge drove the Taliban from the Swat valley. Less than a month later, a devastating flood destroyed homes, crops and lands in the valley.
“The people in the valley said that the flood was a punishment from God because they had not looked after and listened to the Taliban,” says Brian, a BMS worker who has assessed relief and reconstruction programmes in the Swat valley. The pro-Taliban view was soon to be challenged.
Immediately following the flood, BMS grants helped Operation Mercy (OM) to provide food, shelter and emergency supplies to those worst affected by the flooding. Subsequent grants enabled more long term reconstruction. In total, BMS has given £216,000 for relief and reconstruction. Houses that had been poorly constructed and had provided little effective shelter from the extremes of heat, cold and rain, were replaced with sturdy brick houses.
“BMS partners OM were able for the first time to go into this quite dangerous valley ̶ and they were quite nervous about going in,” says Brian. “The floods changed the entire dynamic of their work and they were soon welcomed in the valley.”
The transformation in the lives of Swat valley’s residents ̶ thanks to BMS giving, OM programmes and local Pakistani Christian help ̶ has been immense. An OM publication recently quoted one of the people who had been helped as saying to one of their workers: “I told the people that you will certainly come to give us the blankets. You are Christian.”
“Giving to relief work changes lives,” says Brian. “It saves lives. The fact that God loves us so much that he sent his son to die in our place requires that we will love him enough to love those who are suffering and in pain.”
Photo: Scott Christian