Magazine article The Christian Century

Pakistan Christians Riot after Churches Bombed

Magazine article The Christian Century

Pakistan Christians Riot after Churches Bombed

Article excerpt

An unprecedented set of riots by Christians in Pakistan following suicide bombings in two churches shows that religious minorities here are increasingly fearful of being targeted in the majority Sunni Muslim nation.

Christians clashed with police and vandalized property after Taliban militants attacked Catholic and Protestant churches in Lahore on March 15, with at least 15 congregants killed and dozens wounded.

The bombings took place in one of the largest Christian neighborhoods in Pakistan, known as Youhanabad, which has nearly 100,000 residents. Lahore itself is the home of Pakistan prime minister Nawaz Sharif.

While the Christian protests started peacefully and included children, they turned angry and ugly. Christians took to the streets in a number of cities, and in Lahore three people were killed. A Muslim wrongly accused of helping the suicide bombers was subsequently lynched that day. The following day, two Christians were run over by car, according to police.

The Taliban appear to be using religious minorities as "soft targets" in Pakistan--on the assumption that attacks on Christians and Shi'ite Muslims will win them sympathy with a local audience here that has been steadily radicalized over a number of years.

"The religious minorities in Pakistan feel disconnected when it comes to government policies," said Peter Jacob, director of the Center for Social Justice, a minority-rights NGO in Lahore. "And if such gaps are not addressed, there will be further polarization in a society that is already so intolerant toward religious minorities."

Jacob, who grew up in a Christian household, does not condone rioting, though he can see how it arises, especially in youths from minority groups.

They are "frustrated with government's lack of protection for their community," he said. …

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