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Pakistani Christians Hold Mass Funerals for Loved Ones after Suicide Attack

12-17-2017

Pakistani Christians are grieving the tragic deaths of their loved ones Monday, following a suicide attack by Islamic State militants that killed at least nine people and injured 50 others in Quetta

Hundreds of believers were taking communion at Bethel Memorial Methodist Church when two bombers carrying assault rifles stormed the church, triggering a showdown with police guards. One terrorist was gunned down by police at the church entrance. The other made it inside, opened fire on worshippers, and detonated explosives on his vest.

(Photo: British Pakistani Christians)

"It was a pleasant morning. We had sung songs and children had presented a Christmas program. Pastor Simon Bashir had finished his sermon and we were moving towards the altar when we started hearing gunfire outside the church," Sohail Yousuf told World Watch Monitor. Yousef's 13 year-old daughter Mehak was killed during the attack. Meanwhile, her 16 year-old sister Wasiqa is in critical condition a nearby hospital.

"We bolted all the doors and were praying that God would protect each of us. Then a suicide bomber blew himself up at the main door. The explosion shattered the door and injured many inside. When some rushed outside, they were injured by gunfire as the terrorists were on the church lawn. But soon the situation was brought under control by the volunteer church security guards and police present there."

 

(Photo: British Pakistani Christians)

Mass funerals for those killed in the attack were held later Monday.

"A team of about 70 youths is working day and night to provide blood supplies, food or any other assistance to the injured, and coffins for the burial," Caritas Executive Director Sheezan William said.

Security forces are searching the area to find those who orchestrated the attack. Meanwhile, church leaders have been ordered to vacate the area for their safety.
 

(Photo: British Pakistani Christians)

General Qamar Javed Bajwa, the head of the Pakistani army, denounced the murder of Christians.

"Quetta church attack targeting our brotherly Christian Pakistanis is an attempt to cloud Christmas celebrations. We stay united and steadfast to respond against such heinous attempts," he said.

The U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan also condemned the attack.

Quetta is the capital of Baluchistan Province in southwest Pakistan. The territory borders Iran and Afghanistan and is plagued by violence from militant groups linked to the Taliban, Al-Qaida and the Islamic State.

Pakistani churches are on high alert during the Christmas season, because they are the target of Islamic extremists, especially during Christian holidays.

In March 2016, more than 70 people died in an attack on a Lahore park where many Christians were celebrating on Easter Sunday.

The deadliest attack against Christians in Pakistan happened in September 2013, when two suicide bombers targeted All Saints Church in Peshawar, killed more than 80 people.

 

Christians make up about 2% of the population in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. In addition to attacks by extremists they face institutional persecution and violence from the majority-Muslim population.

The country’s blasphemy laws -- designed to protect Islam, the Koran, and Islam’s prophet, Mohammed – have been used to justify mob violence against individuals and the Christian communities. Courts require a higher burden of proof for Christians to prove their innocence and some have been imprisoned on the testimony of their accusers.

Nadeem James, a Christian man, is currently facing a death sentence for conviction of blasphemy charges.

Asia Bibi, a Christian mother of three, has been in prison for more than seven years after her blasphemy conviction, despite international outcries that she be released.

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