THE Bishop of Peshawar and Moderator of the Church of Pakistan, the Rt Revd Humphrey Peters, urged Christians in Quetta to “keep united and strong in faith in this time of crisis” after at least nine people died in a terrorist attack on a church during a service on Sunday. Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the attack.
A further 60 people were injured when two suicide bombers struck Bethel Memorial Methodist Church, in Quetta. The church was packed with at least 400 worshippers. It is the first attack on Christians in Pakistan that IS has claimed.
Action by security services stopped further loss of life, but there have been calls for further protection of minority groups in Pakistan. Bishop Peters said: “The law-enforcement agencies acted timely and prevented a major loss of life and disaster, but it could have been avoided had more security personnel been allocated to the Churches.”
The director of CLAAS-UK, Nasir Saeed, said: “It is the state’s responsibility to provide security and protection to its citizens, and especially minorities who are constantly being targeted. The government has failed to give them assurances of security and resolve their issues. . .
“My heart goes out to the victims and their families. It is especially sad as Christmas is only a week away, and Christians, already in the Christmas spirit, have been attacked. Attacking worshippers, especially over the Christmas season, is an act of cowardice. It is condemnable, and such hate and violence cannot help anyone to make a place in heaven.”
The general secretary of the World Council of Churches, the Revd Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, said that he condemned “this tragic disregard for human life at a time when people were gathered to worship as a community. We will not allow this devastating act to weaken our faith, our unity, and our common work for peace and justice in the world.”
The chairman of the British Pakistani Christian Association, Wilson Chowdhry, said: “Our communities are, without a shred of doubt, terrified that they will be the next to be killed in a terrorist attack. Christians and churches will be primary targets for extremist violence during the Christmas period in Pakistan: it’s inevitable.”