“The bombing in Afghanistan must be stopped, at least in the most populous areas, where civilians are in danger,” said Father Jim Nuttal, assistant parish priest at St. Dominic´s Catholic church in Bahawalpur.
“Bombs should be dropped only on precise targets,” he added. “Unfortunately there are civilian casualties and this heightens the tension here in Pakistan.”
Fundamentalist Muslims opened fire Sunday at St. Dominic´s, leaving 18 dead and five seriously injured.
Father Nuttal, originally from Boston, Massachusetts, has worked in Pakistan for 30 years.
“I am American but I am also a member of the Dominican Province in Pakistan,” he told the Vatican agency Fides. “I work in the parish and have never had difficulty in relations with the local Muslims.
“In the past, at times because of tension, the superiors advised me to keep a low profile, as at the moment with the bombing in Afghanistan. Here, an American could be an easy target, but so far no one has threatened me.
“The local Muslims are good people, but there are militant groups who are always looking for an excuse to incite protests and, with the American attacks in Afghanistan, they have found it. Pressure must be made on the Bush administration to stop the bombing, which is killing civilians.”
The Dominican provincial in Pakistan, Father James Channan, who visited the Bahawalpur community after Sunday´s shootings, told Fides: “It is a very sad thing that a few terrorists want to destabilize Pakistan.”
“The attack on the parish church was a real a massacre,” he said. “These terrorists are a minority and they are pro-Taliban. They are anti-American. And because Americans are Christians, they target the Christians of Pakistan.
“I ask the authorities to see that justice is done and the terrorists are arrested. We are urging the people to remain calm, not to give in to resentment.”
When Allied strikes in Afghanistan started, several Christians in Pakistan said they feared they might be targeted by Muslim fundamentalists. Police have been posted at Christian churches since the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States.
Pakistan is 97% Muslim, 1% Catholic and 1% other Christian.