Pakistan’s Prime Minister must take part of the blame for yesterday’s deadly attacks Christian worshipers in Lahore, India, according to one of the country’s leading prelates.
Archbishop Joseph Coutts of Karachi blamed the government for failing to enact a 2014 order issued by the Supreme Court that holds authorities responsible for providing security at all places of worship. The prelate accused Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his government of leaving minority faith communities open to attack.
“This order of the Supreme Court has not been implemented, the archbishop, who serves as president of the Pakistan bishops’ conference, told international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need. “This new act of terrorism has cruelly shown how defenseless we are due to this neglect.”
The archbishop’s statement came after twin blasts hit Lahore’s district of Youhanabad yesterday, a neighbourhood densely populated by Christians—one outside St John’s Catholic Church and the other at Christ Church, which part of the Church of Pakistan.
Pakistan Taliban splinter group Jamatul Ahrar claimed responsibility for the attack, which targeted one of the largest Christian communities in the country. According to reports, 14 people were killed and more than 70 were injured.
The government also came under fire from leaders of the National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP), which acts on behalf of the Catholic Church in Pakistan. The NCJP accused the authorities and the police of failing to provide basic security for churches despite an ongoing threat of violence faced by Christian communities in Youhanabad and elsewhere.
NCJP national director Father Emmanuel Asi and NCJP Executive Director Cecil Chaudhry said in a joint statement: “Although [extremists] claimed responsibility for the twin church attacks in Youhanabad, Lahore, the fact remains that the… security at the time of [the] attack were busy watching [a] cricket match rather than performing their duty of protecting the churches.
“As result of this negligence, many Christian people have lost their life and families their loved ones.”
After the blasts violent protests killed two men, accused by a mob of being implicated in the explosions. Calling for calm, Archbishop Coutts said: “I particularly appeal to all Christians to voice their protests in a peaceful manner and not to resort to violence and destruction of public property, which serves no purpose.”
Citing the growing number of acts of violence and intimidation against Christians and other minorities in Pakistan, the archbishop stated: “Once again, the state has not been able to provide safety to its citizens. Millions of citizens continue to live in a state of constant tension and fear, not knowing what to expect next.”
The archbishop said the faithful should, during this period of Lent, focus on helping the injured and traumatized. “I appeal to all citizens of goodwill to be united in this time of sadness and loss. Our solidarity is essential to show the terrorists that we condemn their methods of senseless violence,” he said.
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Aid to the Church in Need is an international Catholic charity under the guidance of the Holy See, providing assistance to the suffering and persecuted Church in more than 140 countries. www.churchinneed.org (USA); www.acnuk.org (UK); www.aidtochurch.org (AUS); www.acnireland.org (IRL); www.acn-aed-ca.org (CAN) www.acnmalta.org (Malta)