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ICC Note

Christians are being targeted in Pakistan as revenge over the cartoon row, and the volatile situation sits on the brink of becoming much worse. Already churches have been destroyed, schools have been destroyed, and people have been killed over the “offense” Muslims have suffered for the publishing of cartoons in Danish newspapers.

Mob violence heightens insecurity among minorities

Reuters (02/20/06)

To read the full story, click here: Mob violence heightens insecurity among minorities

Huddled in a small group, three Christian men pore over the newspapers early in the morning in the congested Mozang area of Lahore . All around, vendors serve up thick, milky tea, glasses of ‘lassi’ (a yoghurt drink), greasy ‘parathas’ (flattened, fried bread) and spicy omelets.

The newspapers, borrowed from a nearby stand, display vivid pictures of the mobs that rampaged through city streets on 14 February, burning random targets, including parked cars and motorcycles, as part of ongoing protests against the publication in a Danish newspaper of cartoons seen by many Muslims as blasphemous. The building of the Punjab Assembly, a local bank and several commercial plazas located along The Mall, Lahore ‘s main commercial artery, were among those set ablaze.

Three people have been killed so far and tensions remain high, with further sporadic incidents of unrest reported. Similar violence has shaken the northern city of Peshawar and also affected life in the federal capital Islamabad .

The volatile situation has also meant that members of minority communities in Lahore and other Pakistani cities are feeling insecure. Around some churches an attempt has been made to set up rudimentary barricades and in the Rehmania colony area, groups of young Christian men keep watch over the local church, acting as a makeshift vigilante force.

“We always become targets when there is a battle between Muslims and the West. We fear this may happen this time too, even though we oppose the cartoons and feel the pain of our Muslim brothers,” Father Iqbal, a Christian clergyman who heads a small church in the area, said.

There is reason for the concern. In the past, the country’s tiny Christian community has faced attack as a means of seeking revenge for the US-led attack on Iraq , or other actions by Western governments perceived as being ‘anti-Muslim’. Churches have been set ablaze, congregations shot at and Christians killed. Some of the worst violence was seen in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, when at least 25 Christians were killed within a year as a result of acts of terrorism that took place in various places across the country.

Commenting on the current situation, the Archbishop of Lahore, Dr Lawrence John Saldanha, explained: “Violence against weaker communities is resurfacing because the government has failed to deal effectively with similar incidents in the past.”

To read the full story, click here: Mob violence heightens insecurity among minorities