CROSSES were held aloft, tyres were burned, and roads were
blocked in cities across Pakistan this week, as Christians demanded
better protection from the government, in the wake of the one of
the worst attacks ever on the country's Christians.
Eighty-five people were killed in a suicide bombing at All
Saints', Peshawar, part of the United Church of Pakistan, on
Sunday. Victims included 34 women and seven children. More than 100
have been wounded. On Tuesday, the Archbishop of Canterbury
described the dead as "martyrs".
Security sources have reported that two suicide bombers carried
out the attack as worshippers left the church after the service for
refreshments on the lawn outside.
The Bishop of Peshawar, the Rt Revd Humphrey Peters, said that
the attack represented "the total failure of the new Government of
KPK" (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the province of which Peshawar is the
capital). It had "failed to provide security to the
"It's not safe for Christians in this country," the Bishop
Emeritus of Peshawar, the Rt Revd Mano Rumalshah, said on Sunday,
The Guardian reported. "Everyone is ignoring the
growing danger to Christians in Muslim-majority countries. The
European countries don't give a damn about us."
On Monday, the chief executive of Release, Paul Robinson, said:
"Our partners say that All Saints' Church had been under threat for
days, and, although the authorities had posted some police
presence, it's now obvious that that was insufficient."
On Monday, protesters marched in Karachi, Lahore, and Islamabad,
where hundreds blocked a main highway. On Wednesday, the diocese of
Wakefield announced that it had sent £2000 to Lady Reading
Hospital, where victims were being treated, after launching an
appeal with the emergency aid charity Muslim Hands.
In London, protests were held outside the High Commission of
Pakistan in London. Wilson Chowdhry, who chairs the British
Pakistani Christian Association, said: "This suffering, which has
reached genocidal proportions, must come to an end. Serious
international intervention is required to prevent the total
extermination of Christians from Pakistan."
The Jundullah arm of the Taliban has claimed responsibility for
the attack. Ahmad Marwat, who iden- tified himself as the group's
spokesman, told the Associated Press by telephone: "All non-Muslims
in Pakistan are our target, and they will remain our target as long
as America fails to stop drone strikes in our country."
The Pakistani Taliban condemned the attack. The Pakistani
government is currently pursuing a strategy of seeking
unconditional talks with the Taliban; but on Monday the Prime
Minister of Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif, said that the attack meant that
it would be "unable to proceed as it intended".
On Sunday he said: "The terrorists have no religion, and
targeting innocent people is against the teachings of Islam and all
religions." A three-day period of mourning was announced, and the
government has pledged to bolster protection for Christians.
The Pakistan Ulema Council, composed of Muslim clerics and
scholars, said that it was "standing with our Christian brothers in
On Tuesday, Archbishop Welby told the BBC that the victims of
the bombings were "martyrs", attacked "because they were testifying
to their faith in Jesus Christ by going to church. That is outside
any acceptable expression, in any circumstances, for any reason, of
On Monday, Canon Titus Presler, the Principal of Edwardes
College, the only college of the Church of Pakistan, situated less
than two miles from All Saints', reported on his blog that students
and alumni were among the dead. The number was yet to be
"What happened in Peshawar yesterday expresses a rise in
extremism that is quite different from the tenor of the Pakistan
that people knew from independence to about 1980," he wrote. "It
prompts in many, many Pakistanis surprise, bewilderment and
Peshawar, in north-western Pakistan and near the border with
Afghanistan, is vulnerable to acts of terror. In 2009, a
suicide-bomber killed himself and five others at a checkpoint near
Edwardes College (News, 1 January,
2010). In March, Bishop Peters led 2000 Christians on a march
in a nationwide protest demanding improved security for Christians,
after a mob set alight two churches and more than 150 homes in a
Christian district of Lahore (
News, 15 March).
All Saints', opened in 1883, is situated inside the Kohati Gate
of the old walled city of Peshawar.
On Monday, the Bishop of Ponte- fract, the Rt Revd Tony
Robinson, who chairs the Archbishop of Canterbury's Pakistan Focus
Group, said that it was "very difficult for the gov- ernment in
Pakistan to protect every church"; but the rise of terror groups
"may mean they need to be more proactive than they have been".
Pakistan is home to 5.3 million Christians in a population of