Pakistan’s Promises of Security Remain Unfulfilled
9/21/2014 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that the Christian community of Peshawar, Pakistan continues to feel insecure and under threat one year after All Saints Church was attacked by suicide bombers. This feeling of insecurity remains despite the Pakistani government’s promises to provide security for the places of worship belonging to the country’s persecuted religious minorities.
On September 22, 2013 at 11:45 a.m., two suicide bombers connected to the Pakistani Taliban detonated themselves outside the gates of All Saints Church. The church had just concluded its Sunday service and over 600 members were exiting the church when the bombs exploded. The resulting scene was that of mass carnage with shrapnel, body parts and blood littering the church compound.
“For the entire world, a year has passed, but for me it feels like it just happened,” Ms. Fahmeda, a widow of a Christian killed in the bombing, told ICC. “I still remember and will never forget the smoke, the cries, the blood and the loss of my husband and hundreds of other Christians.” When the dust settled, over one hundred Christians were killed in the attack and hundreds of others were severely wounded and required immediate medical attention.
The Jundallah group, an affiliate of the Pakistani Taliban, claimed responsibility for the deadly attack, labeling the wonton murder of Christians a “protest” to the U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan. The group’s leader, Ahmad Marwat, promised attacks would continue until the U.S. drone strikes were halted.
In response to what has been termed the worst single attack on Pakistan’s Christian community, Pakistan’s Supreme Court pass a judgment suo motu that the government had to take more steps to protect religious minorities. As part of the 32-page judgment, Chief Justice of Pakistan Tassaduq Hassain Jillani said, “A Special Police Force [must] be established with professional training to protect the places of worship of minorities.”
Since that judgment was passed down in June 2014, the Pakistani government has done little to secure the Christian minority or their places of worship. Father John William, a Catholic priest in Peshawar told ICC that his church has been unsatisfied with the security arrangements provided by the government for his church. “The Christian youth, therefore, performs as security guards voluntarily without proper equipment during the Sunday services,” Father William told ICC.
“The government is not in the least bothered about religious minorities,” Gulshan Bhatti, a member of the Awami National Party, told ICC. “Christians are still living under fear and feel threatened. Children do not like going to church or any other gatherings due to fear. The Christians of Peshawar were even too afraid to celebrate Christmas and Easter this past year.”
ICC’s Regional Manager for South Asia, William Stark, said, “The Christian community of Pakistan continues to be treated like an unwanted religious minority in Pakistan. Despite Pakistan’s government’s rhetoric regarding the protection of religious minorities and their places of worship, little has actually been done to protect Christians and their churches. A year has passed since an entire Christian community was shattered by the extremism and intolerance that has been escalating in Pakistan for many years. More must be done by the government and international community to secure this and other highly persecuted communities in Pakistan. False blasphemy accusations, forced conversions to Islam and widespread discrimination and intolerance have become hallmarks of what it is like to suffer as a Christian in Pakistan. Unless Pakistan and the international community take decisive action to protect Pakistan’s Christian population, deadly attacks, like that seen last year in Peshawar, and intolerance will only increase in Pakistan’s future.”