14 Dead in Terrorist Bombings of Pakistani Churches

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Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by ResoluteSupportMedia https://www.flickr.com/photos/isafmedia/

Fourteen people are dead and at least 78 people were injured in deadly terrorist bombings of two Christian churches in Pakistan. One of the Churches was Catholic the other protestant.

Churches in Pakistan have been forced to post guards during Church services because of the threat of violence against Christians in that country. One of the guards, spotted the suicide bomber, trying to enter the Catholic Church and tried to stop him. This forced the terrorist to detonate the bomb before entering the church. This saved many lives.

At Christ Church, guard Zahid Goga confronted the bomber, but was shot in the head by the bomber’s accomplice.

Pakistani Christians took to the streets in mass demonstrations following the attacks.

According to news reports, this particular slaughter of unarmed Christian civilians was the work of the Taliban. Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, a faction of the Pakistan Taliban has claimed responsibility for the murders. He says that the Taliban plans to carry out similar attacks in the future.

There has been little coverage of these attacks in the mainstream media.

From Catholic Herald:

Although the incident has been condemned by Pakistan’s Prime Minister, President and the majority of politicians, and compensation has been announced for the dead and injured, this is not enough,” he said.

Christians are constantly under attack, especially with their churches and colonies being attacked under the cover of blasphemy accusations, and sometimes by Taliban and extremists. Christians are living under constant fear for their lives and many have fled the country.

I believe these attacks are sustained attempts to force Christians out of Pakistan.”

There is a constant demand to provide security to Christians and even the Supreme Court of Pakistan has ordered security to be provided to them, but the government has not done anything about it, Mr Saeed continued.

I would like to salute to the bravery and sacrifice of Zahid Goga who martyred himself to save hundreds of faithful who were worshiping in church. I also salute the bravery of the policeman who was killed at Catholic church in his attempt to stop the attacker,” he said.

Mr Saeed added that the government had failed to provide justice to Christians in light of previous attacks.

From Voice of America:

Hundreds of Pakistan’s minority Christians rallied in the eastern city of Lahore, blocking roads and shouting slogans in a second day of protests against twin suicide bombings outside two churches in the city that left 15 people dead.

Hundreds of police were deployed to the area Monday as Christian schools were closed for the funeral services for the victims.

Seventy people were wounded Sunday in the attacks when two gunmen tried to shoot their way into the churches during services in the majority-Christian Lahore suburb of Youhanabad. When security guards stopped them at the gates, the attackers detonated explosives.

After the attack, angry Christian mobs blocked highways, ransacked a bus station and killed two people they suspected of being involved in the attacks.

A militant group allied to the Pakistani Taliban has claimed responsibility for the blasts.

Pakistan Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan denounced the bombings as an “inhumane act” and said terrorists are hitting soft targets like churches and mosques in utter desperation following increased military action against them.

From CatholicCulture.org

Members of the Taliban launched suicide bombings against a Catholic church and a Protestant church in Pakistan, leaving at least 14 dead.

Arriving at the bombed church in the afternoon, Archbishop Sebastian Shah of Lahore complained, “The government has failed to protect us.” The bishop said that Christians have pleaded for protection, warning of impending attacks, to no avail. He praised the members of the congregation who had blocked the terrorists from entering the church, at the cost of their own lives, describing them as martyrs. “We are already on the road to Calvary,” the archbishop said.

Later the Pakistani bishps’ conference issued a statement deploring the bombing and calling upon all of the people of Pakistan to “stand alongside their Christian brothers and sisters, against extremist forces.” The statement demanded “extraordinary measures” by the government to protect religious minorities, and instructed Christians to “avoid violence and to cooperate with the police in their investigations.”

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15 Countries Named for ‘Systematic, On-Going’ Abuse of Religious Freedom

The US Commission for International Religious Freedom issued a recent report that named 15 Countries of Particular Concern because of the threats that their governments pose to religious liberty.

These countries are: Burma, China, Egypt, Eritrea, Iran, Iraq, Nigeria, North Korea, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Viet Nam. The governments in these countries have “either engaged in or tolerated systematic, on-going, egregious abuse of the right to freedom of religion or belief.”

Based on the stories I’ve seen since I’ve been writing about Christian persecution, I would guess that the most consistently persecuted group in these countries is Christians.

From CNA:

Washington D.C., May 4, 2013 / 04:11 pm (CNA).- A recent report on international religious liberty cautioned that severe threats to freedom of religion exist in diverse communities through the world and should be discouraged through actions by the U.S. government.

“The Annual Report ultimately is about people and how their governments treat them,” said Dr. Katrina Lantos Swett, chair of the commission that released the report.

“Religious freedom is both a pivotal human right under international law and a key factor that helps determine whether a nation experiences stability or chaos,” she explained.

The U.S. Commission for International Religious Freedom gathers information throughout the year by meeting with government officials, citizens, analysts and non-governmental organizations across the globe in order to assess the state of international religious liberty. The independent, bipartisan group then advises the president, U.S. Congress and State Department on recommended actions to be taken.

Issued each year, the commission’s report marks “countries of particular concern” (CPCs), which are defined as “countries whose governments have engaged in or tolerated systematic, ongoing and egregious violations of the universal right to freedom of religion or belief.” The State Department has the opportunity to officially label CPCs and decide whether to impose sanctions or other penalties on each country.

The 2013 document recommended 15 countries to be designated as CPCs: Burma, China, Egypt, Eritrea, Iran, Iraq, Nigeria, North Korea, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Vietnam. (Read the rest here.)

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Christian Persection: Acid Attack Victim Describes Ordeal

Pakistani acid-attack victim finds new life in Houston

Julie Aftig
by Melissa Phillip, Houston ChronicleHouston Chronicle.

Houston Chronicle. She was 16 years old, working as an operator in a tiny, public call office in Pakistan, when a man walked in and saw the silver cross dangling around her neck.

He asked her three times: “Are you a Christian?”

Julie Aftab answered, “Yes, sir,” the first two times, and then got frustrated.

“Didn’t you hear me?” she asked.

They argued, and the man abruptly left the little office, returning 30 or 40 minutes later with a turquoise bottle. Aftab tried to block the arc of battery acid, but it melted much of the right side of her face and left her with swirling, bone-deep burns on her chest and arms. She ran for the door, but a second man grabbed her hair, and they poured the acid down her throat, searing her esophagus.

A decade and 31 surgeries later, Aftab is an accounting major at the University of Houston-Clear Lake with a melodic laugh. She spoke no English when she arrived in Houston in February 2004, but is poised to take her citizenship test later this month.

Doctors in Houston have donated their time to painstakingly reconstruct her cheek, nose, upper lip and replace her eyelids. Over time, her scars have faded from hues of deep wine to mocha.

And, with time, the 26-year-old said, she has learned to forgive.

“Those people, they think they did a bad thing to me, but they brought me closer to God,” Aftab said. “They helped me fulfill my dreams. I never imagined I could be the person I am today.”

Eldest of seven

Aftab was born in Faisalabad, Pakistan, the eldest of seven children in a Christian working-class family.

She dreamed of becoming a doctor, but dropped out of school at age 12 to work in a sewing factory after her father, a bus driver and the family’s sole breadwinner, broke his back in an accident. After the sewing factory closed when Aftab was 16, she took a job as a telephone operator helping people place phone calls from the small office in the city’s center.

It was June 15, 2002, two weeks into her new job, when the customer spotted her silver cross, a gift from her grand­father. She wore it despite knowing it branded her as Christian, a tiny minority in the Muslim-majority country.

You are living life in the gutter, the Muslim man told her.

She tried to ignore him, remembering what her mother had taught her since she was a child: “You are no one to insult someone’s religion. If someone is insulting religion, they have to answer to God.”

You are going to hell, the man told her. You are living in darkness.

“I am living in the light,” Aftab replied.

So you think Islam is in darkness? the man demanded.

Aftab was frightened. She knew Christians had been accused of violating Pakistan’s strict blasphemy laws in the past when others had twisted their words, to make it sound as though they had attacked Islam.

“No, you said that,” she replied. “Not me.”

But the man was enraged and returned with the battery acid and his friend. When she finally broke away from them, the acid searing her skin and throat, she ran down the street. As she screamed, teeth fell from her mouth and hit the ground.

A woman heard her screams and threw her head cover on Aftab so she could touch her without getting burned. The woman took Aftab to her home and poured water on her. Others eventually came to help take her to the hospital.

People in the neighborhood detained the two men who assaulted her until police arrived.

Why did you do that? the men were asked.

They said Aftab insulted Islam, that she said Muslims are living in the darkness and are going to hell.

“They all turned against me,” she said. “Even the people who took me to the hospital. They told the doctor they were going to set the hospital on fire if they treated me.”

The police let the two men go, and did not even file an official report on the assault until Christian leaders complained, she said. (Read more here.)

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