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Washington, D.C. September 19 (International Christian Concern) – Unidentified gunmen opened fire on a Catholic Cathedral in Hyderabad, Pakistan on Sunday, local activists told ICC. Violent protestors angered by an anti-Islamic film released in the US have killed at least 28 people throughout the region, including 14 foreigners in Kabul yesterday. Christians in Pakistan—often associated with the West because of their beliefs—fear being the targets of future attacks.
Several armed men on motorbikes shot at Christian and Hindu demonstrators outside St. Francis Xavier Catholic Cathedral in Hyderabad on September 16. Religious minorities had gathered at the cathedral to condemn a film, titled ‘Innocence of Muslims,’ which portrays the Muslim prophet Mohammed in a demeaning way. According to Amanat Masih, a human rights activist, the gunmen’s target may have been a foreign nun working at a nearby hospital.
“When Mother Christina, who is in charge of Lady Gram Hospital, reached the gate of the Cathedral, a few men on motorbikes opened fire on the church,” said Masih. “Mother Christina’s driver received two bullets in his legs, but Mother Christina was not hurt.”
Aamir Ashiq, Mother Christina’s driver, said the men wore “green clothes” on their heads and carried green flags. Ashiq was immediately admitted to a hospital for medical treatment.
The peaceful protest, led by Father Samson Shukardin, the Vicar-General of the Catholic diocese in Hyderabad, and attended by hundreds of local Christians, sought to display the religious minorities’ solidarity with Muslim neighbors by denouncing the anti-Islamic film. Following violent demonstrations throughout the region, including attacks on foreigners and US embassies in Libya and Egypt, many Christians in Pakistan are concerned they may be the next targets.
“This movie has resulted in a number of casualties, violent attacks and injuries, and created an alarming situation for the Christian community, especially in Pakistan.” explained Masih.
In another incident, unknown men reportedly threatened workers at St. Elizabeth Hospital in Hyderabad on September 18. “We will teach a lesson to the Christians,” a security guard on duty recalls one of the men as saying. The doors and windows of the hospital were damaged by a small group of angry protestors, Masih told ICC.
Church-based institutions in Hyderabad have been closed since Sunday and church leadership has asked local authorities to increase security among the religious minority communities in the region.