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Christians in Pakistan endure second bomb attack in less than two years

March 25, 2015

Robert McLean, ABM’s Partnerships Coordinator, writes about the challenges faced by Christians in Pakistan and the response by Anglicans around the world :

It’s difficult, fortunately, for us in Australia to imagine what it’s like to be worshipping in our parish church and to find, a second or so later, that a bomb has exploded. However, that’s not the experience of our sisters and brothers in the Church of Pakistan.

Christians make up about two percent of Pakistan’s more than 182 million people, and have been the target of increasingly intense and deadly violence in recent years.

On 22 September 2013 All Saints’ Church in the city of Peshawar was shaken by blasts from two suicide bombers. The attack killed 127 people and injured over 250. It was the deadliest attack on the Christian minority in Pakistan’s history.

On 15 March this year two churches were attacked in Youhanabad, a district of the city of Lahore. One was Christ Church, the other, St John’s Catholic Church. The blasts left 17 people dead and left many more injured.

Last night (24 March) the Anglican Alliance, the Anglican Communion’s network for development, relief and advocacy coordinated a meeting of agencies from around the Communion. ABM was invited to take part. We were able to learn first-hand from the Bishop of Lahore, the Rt Rev Irfan Jamil (pictured), about how the Christian community in the city had been affected by this tragedy.

Bishop Jamil said that the community was heartened to know that Christians from around the world had been praying for them. They were comforted by the words of His Holiness Pope Francis, who condemned the violence against Christians in Pakistan in an address to pilgrims in St Peter’s Square in Rome.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev and Rt Hon Justin Welby, had also encouraged the community. Directly after the attacks, Archbishop Justin and the Interim General Secretary of the Anglican Communion, Canon Alyson Barnett-Cowan, sent condolences to Bishop Jamil and assured him of the support and prayers of the Anglican Communion.

Since that time, Archbishop Justin had been trying to get Bishop Jamil on the phone since learning of the blasts. He finally got through when Bishop Jamil answered his phone during the funeral service in Lahore. Bishop Jamil held his phone up to a microphone so the congregation could hear directly from the Archbishop. He translated as Archbishop Justin spoke to the mourners and prayed for them.

When asked how Anglicans around the globe could help, Bishop Jamil responded that one of the best ways was to continue to pray for Christians in Pakistan. He encourages us to pray for –

  • The injured, for both their short-term and long-term needs in the areas of health, employment and education
  • Those who are bereaved because of the death of loved ones
  • The Rev Irshad Ashknaz, Vicar of Christ Church, and the Rev Fr Francis Gulzar, Parish Priest of St John’s Catholic Church, their assistants, and their families, as they minister to their distraught congregations
  • The Church’s leaders, that they might find the right words to say to the media
  • The health of the Church’s leaders, as they find themselves stretched by the added pressure of this event, as they prepare for Holy Week and Easter
  • The strengthening of Interfaith cooperation between the various religious communities in Pakistan
  • Pakistani law enforcement agencies, so that justice may come swiftly, and that the grip of fear may be loosened