Church Bombing Marks Another Christian Holiday in Pakistan
The bombing of Bethel Memorial Methodist Church in Quetta earlier this month has marked another Christian holiday in Pakistan with violence and terror. Previously, the Easter holiday had been a favorite for terrorists to target, with bombers targeting Christians in both 2015 and 2016. As Christians in Pakistan continue to endure these instances of violence, will Pakistan’s government sum up the ability and the will to protect this community. Following the bombing in Quetta, many Pakistani leaders went to great lengths to express how important Christians are to Pakistan’s history. The question now is will their actions match their words.
12/25/2017 Pakistan (Daily Times) – One day after the third anniversary of the Army Public School (APS) Peshawar massacres, Christians became the latest target of terrorists. It was a Sunday morning when terrorists targeted the Bethel Memorial Methodist Church, Zargoon Road Quetta, where about 400 Christians were gathered together for the nativity service. This is a special service held during the Christmas season, which is a time of year when churches are packed everywhere in the world. Christmas is only a few days away and Christians are busy in preparations and attending Christmas programs like carol services and nativity plays. It is unthinkable that there are those who want to turn these celebrations into mourning.
Causing bloodshed in the name of Islam is unforgiveable, unforgettable and inhumane. It is not a religious duty — quite the opposite. The perpetrators may have thought they were going to ruin these Christmas celebrations, but I think this attack has caused more damage to Islam and Pakistan than anyone else.
Christmas used to be a Christian religious festival, but I believe it is now a festival marked by everyone as something cultural. It is a time for sharing and connecting with loved ones and it is celebrated almost everywhere in the world, even in some Muslim countries, by both Christians and non-Christians alike.
According to Pew Research Centre, 81 percent of non-Christians in the United States celebrate Christmas. The situation is similar in Europe. When Baroness Warsi, who is of Pakistani origin, was a minister, she told the media that Christmas is for everyone and Muslims should celebrate Christmas. And why not as Christ is also a prophet of Islam.
According to some reports more than 50 were injured. It is not clear how severe their injuries are, but photographs on social media suggest that while many may recover physically, the spiritual and emotional impact of living with trauma will be severe and long-lasting.
We know this is not the first attack on a church; we have witnessed many in recent years. In 2013, All Saints Church in Peshawar was attacked by two terrorists who killed at least 83 people, with many more injured, some of them suffering life-changing injuries. In 2015, Taliban suicide bombers attacked Youhanabad churches in which fourteen people were killed and more than 75 were injured. The incident sparked mob violence in which two other suspected militants died. Such reactions of mob violence and vigilante killings are becoming increasingly frequent, especially in cases of blasphemy accusations.
Instead of investigating and seeking justice for the community of Youhanabad, the government started arresting Christians on the streets and in their homes. For many days, the location of many of these Christians was unknown. According to some reports, more than 150 people were arrested, with 83 arbitrarily detained for murder and vandalism. Some were released last year, but 43 are still in the prison.
Three of the victims, Nazir Masih 56, Usman Shaukat, 29, and Indriyas Ghulam recently died in prison. In March, those detained were not offered justice but a deal for their guaranteed acquittal by the Deputy District Public Prosecutor Syed Anees Shah if they converted to Islam. Some Christians say that if the Faizabad rioters can be freed, then why are the Christian protesters of Youhanabad still in jail?
On Easter Sunday in 2016, in another terrorist attack 75 Christians were killed while more than 340 were injured.
Now Quetta is in the headlines for a similar attack. Where next?
For interviews with William Stark, ICC’s Regional Manager, please contact Olivia Miller, Communications Coordinator: firstname.lastname@example.org.