Christian and Muslim Leaders Stand in Solidarity Against Church Bombing in Pakistan
ISIS Claims First Major Attack on Pakistan’s Christian Minority
12/18/2017 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – International Christian Concern (ICC) learned that Christian and Muslim leaders in Pakistan are standing in solidarity against Sunday’s deadly church bombing that has been claimed by the Islamic State (ISIS) extremist group. As a result of the attack, at least nine Christians attending a Christmas worship service were killed with another 57 wounded, many of whom are in critical condition.
The attack began when two militants wearing suicide vests engaged with security forces outside of Bethel Memorial Methodist Church, located on Zarghoon Road in the southwestern city of Quetta. Hundreds of Christians were gathered at the church for Sunday worship when the attack started around noon.
Pastor Simon Bashir, the pastor leading worship at Bethel Memorial, told ICC, “Around 400 people were gathered at the church as a Christmas function was scheduled after the Sunday prayer service.”
Security forces were able to kill one of the assailants before he entered the church, but the other militant was able to enter the church and detonated his suicide vest in the church’s entrance hall. According to local reports, most casualties took place in the front portion of the main service hall. “The victims received wounds inflicted by splinters, broken windowpanes, and wooden pieces of the main hall door,” officials told The Express Tribune.
ISIS claimed responsibility for its first major attack on Christians in Pakistan through its Aamaq news agency, saying that two “plungers” from their group stormed the church. No further details were provided by the extremists.
Religious leaders in Pakistan, both Christian and Muslim, have condemned Sunday’s attack.
“Now is the time to be strong and not panic,” Archbishop of Lahore, Sebastian Shaw, told ICC. “Our enemies want us to live in fear, but we will not live in fear. This is the time our faith and our love is being tested. In all of these circumstances, we have to show that we are followers of Christ. We are peacemakers and therefore will continue to promote peace.”
“The leaders of different sects of Islam express deep solidarity and condolences to the Christian community,” Mufti Saeed Ashiq Hussain, a Muslim cleric at the University of Quranic Studies in Lahore, told ICC. “The terrorists want war between Christians and Muslims in Pakistan. They have failed. Whenever they attack the Christian community in their worship places or neighborhoods, Muslims stand with them in solidarity like two arms of the same body.”
William Stark, ICC’s Regional Manager, said, “We here at International Christian Concern stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Pakistan in condemning this heinous attack. No one should fear being attacked or killed while attending any worship service. Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time that Christians in Pakistan have had to face this extreme violence. In 2013, All Saints Church in Peshawar was attacked by suicide bombers, killing more than 130. In 2015 and then again in 2016, militants attacked Christians celebrating the Easter holiday. Pakistan must do more to secure Christians and their places of worship. Pakistan must also make efforts to root out the extremist elements perpetrating these attacks. Until then, it is likely that this attack on the church in Quetta will not be the last Christians will have to suffer.”