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Lahore’s Christian community in mourning in wake of park blast

NEWS | Anne Lim

Tuesday 29 March 2016

Pakistan Bible Society staff are mourning for relatives and friends killed or seriously wounded in the explosion in a busy park in the eastern city of Lahore on Easter Sunday.

PBS’s marketing officer, Justus Nassir, said casualties of the attack included family members, neighbours and church friends of several staff of the Bible Society.

“It’s a very bad situation,” he said via Skype from Lahore.

“Most of the people were Christian because they had gone to the park to celebrate Easter evening.”unspecified

At least 29 children enjoying an Easter weekend outing were among about 72 killed and 350 injured when a suicide bomber struck in the Gulshan-e-Iqbal park, close to children’s play equipment.

It was Pakistan’s deadliest attack since the December 2014 massacre of 134 school children at a military-run academy in the city of Peshawar that prompted a government crackdown on Islamist militancy.

Open Doors, which supports Christians around the world who are persecuted for their faith, has been working through local partners in Pakistan to put together teams to visit victims in Lahore’s hospitals.

“We leave shortly for funerals, then more trips to hospitals,” an Open Doors partner said.

“Please pray that as we make house visits and hospital visits, it will be a mission of the gospel and resurrection life of Christ that we take with us.”

A Taliban splinter group, Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, claimed responsibility for the blast, saying it was targeted at Christians, even though Muslims were among the dead.

“The situation for Christians in Pakistan is getting increasingly dangerous,” a Christian rights activist told Morning Star News, which publishes news reports of persecuted Christians.

“On one hand, the Taliban are saying that they will launch more attacks on Christians, while on the other hand the government is being pressured by Islamists who want to keep non-Muslim citizens of Pakistan subjugated through the blasphemy laws.”

He believed the government lacked the commitment needed to fight terrorism and religious extremism.

“Until the government and its intelligence apparatus give up their policy of running with the hare and hunting with the hound, things will only deteriorate,” he said.

“This is a war between two mindsets, and it is now up to the state to decide how many more innocent lives will be lost to religious extremism, which is eating up Pakistani society like cancer.”

In an emotional televised address, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif vowed to hunt down and defeat the militants who carried out such attacks.

“We will not allow them to play with the lives of the people of Pakistan,” Sharif said. “This is our resolve. This is the resolve of the 200 million people of Pakistan.”

He said militants were hitting “soft targets” like playgrounds and schools because military and police operations were putting pressure on their activities.

Reuters reported today that Pakistan was set to launch a full-scale operation involving the paramilitary Rangers, who would have powers to conduct raids and interrogate suspects, as they have been doing in the southern city of Karachi for more than two years.

The move, which has not yet been formally announced, represents the civilian government once again granting special powers to the military to fight Islamist militants.

Picture credit: Open Doors

 

 

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