23 September 2013
Widespread condemnation of Pakistani church attack that killed 81
The Pakistani Government has declared three days of mourning following yesterday's double suicide bombing at an Anglican church in Peshawar that has been widely condemned by religious leaders.
At least 81 Christians were killed and more than 140 injured when two members of a group linked to the Taliban blew themselves up at the end of a service at the 130-year old All Saints' church yesterday morning. One of the cathedral's clergy, Revd Ijaz Gill, was among those injured.
Pope Francis described the attack by two Taliban members as an act of hatred and war, and the Archbishop of Canterbury urged the Pakistani Government to provide adequate protection for the country's Christian minority. The president of the Catholic bishops' conference, Archbishop Joseph Coutts, called on the authorities to do everything necessary to catch those behind the "shameful and cowardly" attack, which is thought to be the worst ever against Christians in Pakistan.
In a letter to the Church of Pakistan, Archbishop Welby wrote: "I pray for the peace of Pakistan and the protection of Christ's people. With the people of Peshawar, I join in calling for the Pakistan Government and all people of good will to ensure that communities may go about their daily lives in safety, and that the perpetrators are brought to justice. Please be assured of my prayers and fullest support as you provide leadership and care for your people at this difficult time." Later je tweeted: "Peshawar bomb reveals depths of human evil, yet those suffering speak of forgiveness as well as justice. That is the love of Jesus shown."
Terrified Christians in Karachi, Lahore, Multan and other cities took to the streets yesterday to condemn the killings and demand government protection for their lives and properties. Catholic and Anglican schools will be shut for three days as a sign of mourning and protest.
Maulana Tahir Ashrafi ,chairman of the Ulema Council of Islamic clerics and scholars, criticised the Pakistani Government for failing to protect the country's non-Muslims. "It is shameful that the Government fails to protect minorities in Pakistan," he said, stressing his closeness "to our Christian brothers and sisters".
In unscripted remarks at the end of a one-day trip to the city of Cagliari on the Italian island of Sardinia, Pope Francis said :"Today, in Pakistan, because of a wrong choice, a decision of hatred, of war, there was an attack in which over 70 people died. This choice cannot stand. It serves nothing. Only the path of peace can build a better world." Pope Francis then prayed with the crowd for the victims.
Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, the Minister of Interior, said the Government would bear the cost of rebuilding the damaged church.
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