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ICC Note:

Christian leaders in Pakistan have called on the government for better protection from terrorist attacks following the Easter bombing that targeted Christians. Christians and their places of worship have come under increasing attack from Pakistan’s Islamic terrorist groups in the recent past. Many Christians are concerned that they are perceived by the terrorists as a soft target because of the government’s failure to provide their community with proper protection. Will Pakistan take steps to protect its vulnerable Christian minority or will another attack on Christians have to take place? 

3/30/2016 Pakistan (Reuters) – A year ago, Wasif Masih, 16, had a narrow escape when a suicide bomber from a faction of the Pakistani Taliban blew himself up during Sunday worship outside his church in a Christian neighborhood in the eastern city of Lahore.

This past Easter Sunday, Wasif died when the same Taliban faction, Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, sent another suicide bomber to a Lahore park full of families, killing 72 people including at least 29 children.

Wasif was so close to the blast that the bomber’s head fell at his feet, his mother, Zubaida Masih, said as the family mourned at their house in Nishtar Colony, a neighborhood with both Christian and Muslim families.

“It was as if they were following him. He escaped them then but they came after him again, in the park,” Masih said. “If there was better security, this wouldn’t have happened.”

Two days after the attack, a sense of vulnerability is growing among members of the Christian community, who are calling on the government of Muslim-majority Pakistan to do more to protect them.

Christians, who number around 2 million in a nation of 190 million people, have been the target of a series of attacks in recent years.

Last March, suicide bombers struck Masih’s Christ Church and another close by, killing at least 14 people. In 2013, a pair of suicide bombers blew themselves up outside a 130-year-old church in Peshawar after Sunday Mass, killing at least 78 people.

Now the Easter attack by Jamaat-ur-Ahrar, which once swore support for Islamic State, has fueled worries that militants in Pakistan are increasingly subscribing to the IS brand of ultra-sectarian violence against those perceived as infidels.

“Terrorists didn’t used to be so focused on our community. Now all their attention is on us,” said Irshad Ashnaz, the Christ Church vicar. “Perhaps it’s time for the government to turn their attention toward us also.”

“These people are roaming around freely and no one is stopping them,” Ashnaz said at the church, its windows cemented over after the attack.

Pope Francis condemned the attack as “hideous” and demanded that Pakistani authorities protect religious minorities.

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