Asia

Pakistan church bombing claims the lives of 85 worshippers

September 24, 2013   ·   0 Comments

Pakistan church bombing

At least 85 are killed when suicide bombers target a historic church in the Pakistani city of Peshawar. The attack marks a significant point, as one of the deadliest attacks on Pakistan’s Christian Minority in recent years. 

Places of worship are usually where prayers and celebrations take place, however on Sunday it was a scene of terror, bloodshed and mourning as families and friends gathered to identify and claim the remains of their loved ones.

After Sunday morning services concluded, the 130 year old All Saints Church was turned into a war-zone. As 600 of its members filed out of the doors and wandered unknowingly into the line of fire. Moments later several explosions tore through the crowd of worshippers. Over a 100 people have been reported injured and 85 dead with 34 being women and 7 children.

The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan Jundallah (TTP Jundallah) meaning “the soldiers of god”, claimed responsibility for the bombing, within hours of the attack. The group has strong ties with Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and AQ affiliate Lakshar-e-Tayyiba among others. With a Sunni based ideology, Jundallah has been directly linked to many of the attacks against Christians as well as anyone they label takfir or kafir, a denigrating Arabic term meaning infidel or unbeliever. In the past they have targeted Shia Muslims (in 2012), Sufi Muslims, and Chinese and Ukranian tourists (in early 2013).

Christians make up just 4% of Pakistan’s population, clearly finding themselves in an extremely hostile environment, especially in the  city of Peshawar which borders Taliban strongholds and tribal areas. The increase in the numbers of attacks in the last year suggests that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif should adopt the military’s suggestion to deal with the current trials and tribulations with the tribes in a more harsh and confrontational manner.

Up until this point, there have been several attempts by the Pakistani government to negotiate with the Taliban and the tribal leaders through back-channels and more public avenues.

The attack on the church could mark a climaxing point or merely just a sign that things are about to get worse in the Christian suburbs of Peshawar and elsewhere in the country as there have only been sporadic and very minor attacks in recent history.

Following Sunday’s attacks, hundreds of Christians gathered in Karachi to protest the bombings. The Bishop of Peshawar, Sarfarz Hemphray announced a three-day mourning period and condemned the government’s failure to protect its Christian citizens.  According to many reports, currently the rate of attacks by Taliban and AQ affiliates seem to be on the rise .

Photo credit: Riaz Khan

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Massimo Pernice

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