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ICC Note:

The protest by the US bishops over attacks against churches in Pakistan is a call to all US Christians to be concerned for their persecuted brothers and sisters across the world.

AsiaNews (03/02/06) – The US bishops have launched a strong and direct protest to Islamabad against the latest attacks against churches in Pakistan and they have expressed solidarity with the country’s “defenceless” Christian community. Mgr Thomas G. Wenski, bishop of Orlando and chairman of the Committee on International Policy, sent a letter to the Pakistani ambassador to the United States, Jehangir Karamat, calling on him to convey to Islamabad “the deep sorrow and distress” felt by “many friends of Pakistan” in the USA about the “seemingly unchecked attacks against the loyal and peaceful Christian minority, both Catholic and Protestant, in your country”.

In the letter, which AsiaNews obtained a copy of, the bishop recalled that the American Bishops’ Conference had already written to the ambassador when the “terrorist attacks” took place in Sangla Hill on 12 November. Then, thousands of Muslims had destroyed and burned three Christian churches, a convent, two Catholic schools, the homes of a Protestant pastor and a Catholic parish priest, a girls’ hostel and houses belonging to Christian residents of the village. Mgr Wenski wrote: “I am concerned that I did not receive a reply to my earlier letter that was sent in the name of the Catholic Bishops of the United States and I regret that I have occasion again to bring other serious incidents to your attention.”

The bishop elaborated: “I write to protest in the strongest terms possible the outrageous attacks by other Islamist fundamentalists in Sukkur, in the Province of Sindh , where on the 19th of this month, more than 500 persons destroyed the 120-year old St Mary’s Catholic church and St. Saviour’s church of the Church of Pakistan .”

The criticism of the reaction of the police and local authorities is clear: the reconstruction of events reveals that “police and firemen were suspiciously delayed in responding, despite having been notified much earlier.”

After highlighting other attacks “on Christian churches and schools in Peshawar and at Kawanlit in Punjab ”, Mgr Wenski closed his letter “in the hope of being heard” and gave assurance of his prayers “for the wellbeing of all the Pakistani people”.