Christians, who according to Pakistan government’s estimate number around 2 million in a nation of almost 190 million people, have often times been the target of a terror attacks in recent years.
In the wake of a recent terror strike by a splinter group of Talibaan which once swore allegiance to Islamic State, worries have been fueled that the militants in Pakistan are now ever more identifying to the Islamic State’s ultra-sectarian violence against Christians whom they perceive as infidels. After the heinous attack on Lahore’s Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park on Easter day, which left more than 75 dead and above 300 injured; Pakistani Christian leaders have urged the government to provide an extra bit of security to the Christians.
While speaking in this regard, Irshad Ashknaz- Vicar of Christ Church said, “Terrorists didn’t used to be so focused on our community. Now all their attention is on us. Perhaps it’s time for the government to turn their attention toward us also.” “These people are roaming around freely and no one is stopping them,” he added. As a security measure, windows at Lahore’s Christ Church have been cemented over after the attack.
The Bishop of Lahore- Irfan Jamil, is of the opinion that the government was trying its best. “There are people who live to live and there are people who live to die,” he said. “How much protection is enough protection against such people?” “But” he added, “There is always room for improvement. Many of us don’t feel that we are secure.”
Moreover, Father Jamal Albert, while attending a vigil in Gulshan-e-Iqbal park, said that his message is “whether you are Christian, Hindu, Jewish or Muslim, you are unsafe and they are trying to break down our nation, destroy our sense of oneness, our sense of being Pakistanis.” He kept on saying, “Rest assured we will not be deterred by such episodes. This is our country just as much as anyone else’s. In fact we are more resolved than ever to go on.”
The attack was the deadliest in Pakistan since the 2014 mass execution of 134 school children at Peshawar’s Army Public School. Followed by the attack, the authorities launched a broad crackdown on militants in the Punjab province. In this regard, spokesperson of Punjab Government- Zaeem Qadri said that the government had beefed up security at churches as a result of previous attacks, which is the reason that the terrorists selected a park this time. However, regardless of the fears generated by the atrocious attack, majority of Pakistan’s Christians called for unity and brotherhood.