PAKISTAN – Christians shocked and worried after latest terrorist bombings
Terrorist attacks have resumed with a vengeance after two years of reduced violence following a military operation initiated in June 2014. Islamic State and groups allied to it claimed responsibility for six horrific suicide bomb attacks last week which killed nearly 100 people. The latest surge in violence comes amid reports of the reunification of some powerful factions of the Pakistani Taliban, some of whom have links with Islamic State.
Although the latest attacks did not target Christians but were aimed at a Sufi shrine, police and general public, Christians in Lahore are worried. They vividly recall the Easter Sunday attack on their community last year. Church authorities closed schools and even considered closing churches and Lahore cathedral.
Archbishop Sebastian Francis Shaw condemned the brutal attacks and expressed his heartfelt condolences: “I would like to offer my sympathies to the unfortunate victims of this ruthless terrorist attack, and assure them that the Church will stand hand-in-hand with the affected families in this darkest hour.”
After the second attack, which took place in front of the parliament of the Punjab in lahore during a protest rally by pharmaceutical workers, Jahanzeb Iqbal, Rector of the Lahore Cathedral and director of youth ministry in the Archdiocese said:
“We are dismayed and put in God’s hands this injustice along with the lives of all the innocent dead of yesterday’s massacre. As Christians, today we will hold a solemn vigil in the Cathedral and in silence we will pray for the victims, entrusting them to the Lord. We will then follow the government’s directions, by participating in the mourning and closing all our public institutions, schools included.”
Archbishop Shaw asked the government to take a strict stand to eliminate terrorism, as loss of precious innocent lives is intolerable. He termed the terrorist attack as an ugly attempt to destabilise country aimed at creating an impression of unsafe place in the eyes of international community.
“We denounce every act of terrorism and violence in the country, while we urge the authorities to provide complete medical support to the victims. The law-enforcement authorities must ensure stronger vigilance, as the blasts have jolted the whole the country,” school principal Shahid Ambrose Moghul said at a condolence meeting held at St Anthony’s High School to offer prayers for the bomb victims.
Another priest in Lahore, Fr Bernard Inayat commented “The Taliban strike indiscriminately on civilian and military targets, schools and families. They want to destroy peace and obtain visibility by threatening institutions. We will remain united in protecting social and religious peace. As Christians, we will do our share, and pray and work peacefully, building every day for peace in our daily lives”
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif condemned the attacks and immediately vowed to track down those behind them. Pakistan’s army chief, Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa, stated: “Each drop of the nation’s blood shall be avenged, and avenged immediately. No more restraint for anyone.”
Officials said dozens of militants have been killed in a security crackdown following the attacks – 18 in southern Sindh province, where the Sufi shrine attack occurred, and another 13 in in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in the north-west. A government official said that scores of suspects had also been arrested.
Pakistan has also blocked routes to the Afghan border and summoned officials from the Afghan embassy, protesting that Afghanistan was being used as a base for militants to carry out attacks in Pakistan. It also blamed India for using Afghan soil to cause trouble in Pakistan. However many believe that militancy refuses to die down because Pakistan tolerates selective militant groups as cover for its own covert wars that sustain the economy of its security establishment.