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Press Release — October 28, 2001

Terrorists Kill 15 Christians During Sunday Service In Pakistan

(Lahore, Pakistan – October 28, 2001) Bearded terrorists on motorcycles attacked St. Dominic Church, killing at least 15 worshipers and a police officer in the town of Bahawalpur, 225 miles south of Lahore. The attack occurred Sunday morning as an estimated 60 Christians had just begun their worship service.

It was between 8:45 and 9:00 am that five bearded terrorists came on two motorcycles. After killing the guard at the Church gate they entered the main building where the service was in progress. The Pastor, Rev. Emanuel, was leading the prayer. The terrorists indiscriminately began firing for a period lasting about five minutes. Fifteen worshipers including the Pastor, with Bible in hand, fell dead on the spot. Many more were seriously wounded. Three of the wounded later died from their injuries in the Bahawalpur Victoria hospital. Including the security guard, an off duty policeman, a total of sixteen (16) innocent people died. Among the dead were women and children. This latest atrocious is believed to be an act of retaliation by Muslim militants who had made public their threats to kill two Christians for every Muslim killed by US forces in Afghanistan.

A few days earlier, an application from the Church was sent to Deputy Inspector General Police (DIG), Meher Ghulam Qadir, requesting that he provide security at the Church gate. Sadly, the request fell on deaf ears.

After the American military action in Afghanistan, religious intolerance and extremism have visibly increased in Pakistan. Though the Pakistani Christians are not less patriotic than other citizens, yet it is beyond comprehension as to why the Christians should be linked with America and other western countries that would warrant violent assaults against churches. Many incidents of religious terrorism and sectarian strife have been taking place for the last two decades in Pakistan, but today’s attack was the most heinous of attacks by religious extremists against innocent Christians.

St. Dominic Church was erected in 1961. There are also two Church run High Schools for boys and girls, which are educating both Muslim and Christian children. The Church, like other organizations, has been making a significant contribution in the field of education at Bahawalpur. Sadly, the hard-line militants do not place any value on such kinds of benevolent gestures. Though no militant organization has taken responsibility for these gruesome killings, it is widely believed that it was the work of pro-Taliban Islamic militants who used sophisticated weapons to carry out this massacre.

Major general Tahir Ali Qureshi GOC Bahawalpur, while visiting the scene of the occurrence, gave assurances to the Christians that the government would do everything to round up the perpetrators and punish them according to the law of the land. Bahawalpur is the second largest city in the province of South Punjab and the location of several strongholds of Islamic militant organizations, such as the Sipa-e-Sahba Pakistan, Jaish-e-Mohammad, Harkat-ul-Mujahideen and the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba.

After the American military action began in Afghanistan, the above stated organizations, in their protesting processions, raised slogans of holy war against America and non-Muslim people whom they call infidels. These Islamic hard-line militant organizations are present everywhere in Pakistan. There is apprehension among the Christians of Pakistan that such murderous attacks will be repeated. The Christian minority is vulnerable to attacks by the Muslim militants.