After Church attacks, bishops call on Pakistanis to join hands against terrorism

At least 14 people have been killed and 78 injured in two suicide bombings at churches in Pakistan’s most densely populated Christian area. 

A security guard spotted one of the bombers trying to enter St John’s Catholic church in Youhanabad, Lahore, and forced him to detonate the bomb without entering the church, while at the nearby Anglican Christ Church a guard was shot in the head after confronting another bomber.

Christians throughout Pakistan have taken to the streets to protest, and the Justice and Peace Commission of Pakistan’s bishops’ conference has condemned the authorities’ “minimal” protection for the attacked congregations in light of how “the churches had already been threatened and had already asked the police for further security measures”.

Recalling how Pakistan’s Christian community has previously been targeted by extremists, the commission called on the government to “adopt strong measures to protect churches and other religious minorities”.

Nasir Saeed, who heads Pakistan’s Centre for Legal Aid, Assistance and Settlement, said that while the attacks had been condemned by Pakistan’s Prime Minister, President and the majority of politicians, with compensation having been announced for the injured and bereaved, this was 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,” he said, adding, “Christians are living under constant fear for their lives and many have fled the country. I believe these attacks are sustained attempts to force Christians out of Pakistan.”

Karachi’s Archbishop Joseph Coutts, president of the Pakistan Catholic Bishops' Conference, has called on Pakistan’s government, political parties, religious leaders and ordinary citizens to “stand against extremist forces and with their Christian brothers and sisters,” adding that “the whole nation should join hands and stand against terrorism”.

Condemning the attacks and imploring God for peace in Pakistan, Pope Francis said “the world is trying to hide” a global epidemic of anti-Christian persecution.

Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, a faction of the Pakistan Taliban, has claimed responsibility for the bombings. It has threatened to carry out further attacks.