BISHOPS in Pakistan have played down fears of an imminent attack on Pakistani Christians by Islamist groups linked to Islamic State (IS).
The British Pakistani Christian Association (BPCA) had issued a statement on Saturday which said that the military in Pakistan had told Christians that they would soon be targeted by terrorist groups affiliated to IS.
But the Bishop of Peshawar, the Rt Revd Humphrey Peters, said on Tuesday that Christians in his region, who have suffered terrorist attacks from jihadis before (News, 4 October 2013), had not been warned by the army to fear further attacks.
“Our diocese of Peshawar is in the most sensitive area of Pakistan,” Bishop Peters said. “The threats are there, but for all the Pakistanis: we cannot single out the Pakistani Christians or other religious minorities.”
He said that the security forces in a province in Afghanistan which borders Pakistan had recently come under attack by Islamists, but no Islamist group within Pakistan had made any public statements threatening Christians.
This was echoed by the Bishop of Karachi, the Rt Revd Sadiq Daniel. On Monday, he said that, contrary to the BPCA’s warnings, the situation in Pakistan was improving. “I believe that, within next two years, people would love to live in Pakistan. The people who have left the country because of security threats would return to their homeland.”
The chairman of the BPCA, Wilson Chowdhry, said, however, that the situation was dire. “Many of the conditions for genocide of Christians have long been in place in Pakistan.” He called on supporters to pray that the army would protect Christians and other minorities fully from terrorist attacks.
There have been a series of violent atrocities against Christians in Pakistan, most of them claimed by Islamist militants. Two years ago, at least 100 Christians were murdered in a double-suicide bombing in a church in Peshawar (News, 4 October 2013), and there was another church bombing in Lahore earlier this year, which killed at least 14 people (News, 13 March).
There have also been numerous cases of Christians’ being accused of blasphemy, which have led to lengthy imprisonment, trials, and even public lynchings.