THE killing of 14 people in
suicide-bombings outside two churches in Pakistan on Sunday is part
of a campaign of persecution against Christians that "the world
seeks to hide", the Pope has said.
The attacks took place outside
St John's Roman Catholic Church and the Anglican Christ Church, in
Youhanabad, a Christian neighbourhood of Lahore, where morning
services were under way. More than 70 people were injured.
Hours after the news broke, the
Pope, speaking to an audience in St Peter's Square, said: "Our
brothers' and sisters' blood is shed only because they are
Christians. I implore God that this persecution against Christians
- that the world seeks to hide - comes to an end and that there is
The Vicar of Christ Church, the
Revd Irshad Ashknaz, spoke to the Revd Rana Youab Khan, Assistant
Curate of St Anselm's, Belmont, a friend and former colleague in
Lahore, on Sunday.
"He was in tears," Mr Khan said
on Monday. "He was quite depressed and desperate because of the
situation. He said: 'We are helpless as Christians in
Pakistan.' He is really feeling that they are insecure."
Youhanabad was "a big Christian
colony" of more than 50,000, surrounded by Muslim villages, Mr Khan
said. The Government needed to be "very serious and careful" to
avoid a disintegration in Christian-Muslim relations in an area
that had been regarded as relatively safe.
The Primate of the Church of
Pakistan, the Most Revd Samuel Azariah, described the attacks as
a "cowardly and inhuman act".
He vowed: "We shall overcome
through our love and kindness upon those who believe in evil and
The Bishop of Lahore, the Rt
Revd Irfan Jamil, said that a joint funeral service was being
planned with the Roman Catholic church for Tuesday.
The RC Archbishop of Karachi,
the Most Revd Joseph Coutts, accused the Prime Minister of Pakistan
of failing to implement an order from the Supreme Court to provide
security in all places of worship.
"This new act of terrorism has
cruelly shown how defenceless we are due to this neglect," he said,
in a message to Aid to the Church in Need. "Once again, the state
has not been able to provide safety to its citizens. Millions of
citizens continue to live in a state of constant tension and fear,
not knowing what to expect next."
He called on people to voice
their protests in "a peaceful manner".
Protests have taken place
in Lahore, and other cities. Demonstrators have blocked roads
burned tyres, smashed shops, and attacked vehicles, Reuters
reported. The BBC reported on Monday that an "angry mob" had
lynched two people suspected of involvement in the attack.
A Taliban splinter group -
Jamatul Ahrar - has claimed responsibility for the
"We promise that until an
Islamic system is put into place in Pakistan such attacks will
continue," Ahsanullah Ahsan, a spokesman for the Taliban faction,
said in a statement emailed to reporters.
A policeman and security guard
were killed in the attacks, reported the Centre for Legal Aid,
Assistance and Settlement (CLAAS), which works with persecuted
Christians in Pakistan.
Nasir Saeed, director of
CLAAS-UK, said that the attacks were part of "sustained attempts to
force Christians out of Pakistan".
He said: "Although the incident
has been condemned by Pakistan's Prime Minister, President, and the
majority of politicians, and compensation has been announced for
the dead and injured, this is not enough.
"Christians are constantly
under attack, especially with their churches and colonies being
attacked under the cover of blasphemy accusations, and sometimes by
Taliban and extremists.
"This attack is a reflection of
the government's failure, and unfortunately, I fear, this is not
going to be last attack against Christians. The international
community must pay attention to the ongoing persecution of
Christians in Pakistan."
In September 2013, 85 people
were killed in a suicide-bombing at All Saints', Peshawar, one of
the worst attacks ever on Christians in Pakistan (News,
27 September, 2013).
Mr Khan said that, after two
years, no report on what had occurred had been produced: "If the
government is sincere about the minorities, especially Christians,
they need to prove that everything will come out in black and
Christian Solidarity Worldwide
said on Sunday that the Government had yet to fulfil its promise to
bring justice, including compensation, to the victims in
"Influential leaders, from
grass-roots religious clerics to MPs and federal ministers, have
been known openly to incite violence against non-Muslim minorities
or minority Muslim sects," its statement said. "This situation is
exacerbated by a culture of impunity and the unchecked influence of
The National Commission for
Justice and Peace, formed in 1985 by the Catholic Bishops'
Conference of Pakistan, is demanding that "provincial and federal
government take serious and effective measure to protect the
minority community of Pakistan".
Earler this month, a
round-table meeting on religious freedom in Pakistan was hosted by
the Archbishop of Canterbury's director for reconciliation, David
Porter, attended by 60 clergy of Pakistani origin.
An online prayer wall where
prayers for Pakistan can be posted is available here: http://www.anglicancommunion.org/community/prayer-wall.aspx