Prime Minister to blame for not protecting Christians
“Prime Minister ignored court order to provide security of churches”
– Msgr. Coutts
“Police ‘were busy watching cricket’ when attacks happened.”
– National Commission for Justice and Peace
John Pontifex, ACN United Kingdom
Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada
London / Montreal, Wednesday March 18, 2015 – Pakistan’s Prime Minister must take part of the blame for yesterday’s deadly attacks on Sunday churchgoers, according to the leader of the country’s Catholics – who has accused the government of ignoring security.
Archbishop Joseph Coutts of Kararchi accused Nawaz Sharif and Chief Ministers of leaving minority faith communities open to attack by failing to act on a 2014 order from the Supreme Court to provide security in all places of worship.
Pakistan is a priority country for Aid to the Church in Need which helps provide Christian education and catechesis for children,emergency support for victims of persecution, training for seminarians, support for Sisters and lay catechists, construction of churches and other centres, and vehicles for pastoral work.
Supreme Court Order not implemented
Outlining the significance of the court order, the archbishop, who is President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Pakistan, stated: “This order of the Supreme Court has not been implemented.” In his message, which he sent to Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), the archbishop added: “This new act of terrorism has cruelly shown how defenseless we are due to this neglect.”
The archbishop’s statement came after two blasts took place yesterday (Sunday, March 15) in Lahore during Sunday services in the district of Youhanabad, densely populated by Christians – one outside St John’s Catholic Church and the other at Christ Church, 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 were killed and more than 70 were injured.
In the meantime, further criticism of the government came from leaders of the National Commission for Justice and Peace, 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 executive director, Cecil S Chaudhry stated: “Although [extremists] claim responsibility for the twin church attack 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. In result of this negligence, many Christian people have lost their life and families their loved ones.”
Calling for calm
Violent protests erupted after the blasts, with reports of the killing of two men, accused by the mob of being implicated in the explosions. Calling for calm, Archbishop Coutts in his message stated: “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.”
The archbishop said that as a mark of respect for the dead and those in mourning all Catholic schools and educational centres in the diocese would remain closed today (Monday, March 16).
With acts of violence and intimidation against Christians and other minorities commonplace in Pakistan, the archbishop also 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. He added: “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.”