Enhanced security measures to protect against terrorism
Horrific terrorist attacks occur time and again in Pakistan. Christians are not the only victims of terrorism, but Christian churches and other institutions are particularly at risk.
One of the places that has suffered most in this respect has been the archdiocese of Lahore in northeast Pakistan.
In March 2008 the Sacred Heart Cathedral was seriously damaged, along with several Catholic schools and leaving 30 people dead and nearly 250 injured. The bookshop belonging to the Sisters of St Paul on the same site was also almost completely destroyed. Later, during the Christmas season of the same year, another planned attack on the cathedral during Midnight Mass occurred but this time, a bomb detonated prematurely and the disaster was prevented at the very last minute.
On a March Sunday morning (the 15th) , two bombs went off almost simultaneously in a Christian quarter of Lahore called Youhanabad. One detonated outside a Catholic church and the other outside a Protestant church. Both had within their walls hundreds of people who had gathered to pray. In this instance, around 20 people were killed and 80 people injured. The fact that more people were not killed in the Catholic St John’s Church was only thanks to the quick-witted courage of a young man of 20 who managed to bring down the attacker who was wearing a suicide belt, before he succeeded in getting into the church. The attacker then blew himself up, killing the young man at the same time. By this courageous act of self-sacrifice this young man undoubtedly saved numerous lives, since there were no fewer than 600 people inside the church.
In 2016, on Easter Sunday, suicide bombers attacked again. This time, the attacks were in a Lahore park where hundreds of Christians had gathered to celebrate Easter with their families after attending Holy Mass. The attack took place close to a children’s playground. Over 70 people were killed that day. Many of them, children.
Now the Pakistani government is demanding that those buildings which particularly at risk – including churches and Church-based institutions – take care of increasing their own security measures. If they do not meet these requirements they can be closed down. One such institution that is particularly threatened is the seminary of St Francis Xavier in Lahore, also in the Youhanabad quarter of the city that was targeted the previous year in the two suicide attacks on Christian churches. The seminary has already received a number of threats. At present there are 73 seminarians from all over the country studying and living there, as well as 23 religious brothers who attend lectures at the seminary during the daytime – in all almost a hundred young men and future priests.
The seminary must urgently increase the height of the surrounding perimeter wall, and repair previously existing damage to it. At the same time, the walls have to be protected with barbed wire and a watchman must be employed. If they do not do this, they are leaving themselves open not only to terrorists breaking into the grounds, but also to the government closing down the seminary for failing to implement the required security measures.
The rector of the seminary, Father Asif John writes: “The lack of security is both a challenge and a threat to us. Our seminary is dependent on the help of kind people. We do not have the resources to complete such a project.
ACN has promised 29,000 CAN!
If you wish to support similar projects – it is as simple as clicking ‘donate’ and following the instructions.
If you prefer to give us a call – or to donate by mail – you can find our coordinates here. We always look forward to speaking with you!