17 March 2015
Pakistan government must protect Christians from attacks
A church targeted in the attack on 15 March. Photo credit: British Pakistani Christian Association
South Asian Christians call for action following further violence against Christians in Pakistan. The South Asian Forum of the Evangelical Alliance has joined with the British Pakistani Christian Association (BPCA) to demand swift action from the Pakistani government.
Suicide bombers reportedly left at least 17 people dead in attacks on two churches in Lahore on Sunday and local church leaders report that despite threats over the past three months no additional protection was provided by the police.
Protests following the bombings also ended in violence and Father Gulzar of the attacked St John's Catholic Church told the BPCA that police brutally beat many protesters leading to riots in which four Christian men were killed.
The Alliance's South Asian Forum and the BPCA are calling for the Pakistani government to provide protection to Christians against these attacks, and for the UK government to use its influence to bring an end to the violence. Britain is the second largest foreign aid contributor to Pakistan and has provided over £300 million to the country in the last year. The BPCA and SAF are calling for this aid to be used to improve the lives of all and, particularly in the light of this funding, careful attention should be maintained on ensuring the protection of minority groups.
Manoj Raithatha, national coordinator for the Evangelical Alliance's South Asian Forum, said: "These attacks are becoming more and more frequent and the Pakistani government must protect Christians. The UK and the international community need to wake up to the violence that is being perpetrated and take decisive steps immediately to put pressure on Pakistan to stop these attacks."
Wilson Chowdhry, chairman of the BPCA, said: "This latest attack on an innocent Christian community is symptomatic of the hatred and vilification that Christians and other minorities face in Pakistan.
"My heart aches for my brothers and sisters in Pakistan who are undergoing such extreme persecution. The global Church has to speak out for this voiceless community or their suffering is set to get worse."
Maryam Bibi, a parishioner at Christ Church, which was attacked, told the BPCA: "As soon as the service finished I could hear guns firing and I asked my mother to stay seated at the front of the church. Soon after there was blast at the gates and pieces of flesh and blood sprayed across all of those in the church.
"Everywhere I looked there were broken window panes, blood and shoes scattered across the blast site."
As well as calling for action from the Pakistani and British governments, the two groups of South Asian Christians are also asking the Church to join together in prayer for the victims and their families, the churches in Lahore and for calm on the streets in the wake of these attacks.
The British Pakistani Christian Association have also initiated a petition calling on the Pakistani government to put a stop to the violence towards Christians. You can find the petition at www.petitionbuzz.com/petitions/protect-lahore-christians.
Notes to Editors
Asian Forum (SAF)
SAF was formed in 2010 by the Evangelical Alliance to unite and support the 75,000 South Asian Christians, originally from the eight South Asian countries, who are now living in Britain. It was set up to provide a forum for South Asian Christians in the UK to encourage, support and equip each other for mission, and to represent their concerns to government, media and the wider Church. As a 'minority within a minority' South Asians need a voice to respond quickly and with unity to issues: for example, pressure on Christians in Pakistan and the on-going fragility of the country, persecution of some Indian Christians, or the intense suffering caused by the divisions in Sri Lanka.
British Pakistani Christian
Founded in 2009 after the attack on the innocent Christian Community of Gojra, the BPCA now provides Advocacy and Humanitarian aid to the Global Pakistani Christian community. We challenge legal reform through lobby, awareness and representation whilst delivering aid to needy victims of the violence and persecution meted out towards Christians in Pakistan From safe houses for rape victims, Legal cover for blasphemy law and rape victims, to the installation of water pumps to rural communities without facilities - we aim to improve the quality of life for suffering Christians.
The Evangelical Alliance
We are the largest and oldest body representing the UK’s two million evangelical Christians. For more than 165 years, we have been bringing Christians together and helping them listen to, and be heard by, the government, media and society. We’re here to connect people for a shared mission, whether it’s celebrating the Bible, making a difference in our communities or lobbying the government for a better society. From Skye to Southampton, from Coleraine to Cardiff, we work across 79 denominations, 3,500 churches, 750 organisations and thousands of individual members. And we're not just uniting Christians within the UK – we are a founding member of the World Evangelical Alliance, a global network of more than 600 million evangelical Christians. For more information, go to www.eauk.org.