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Christians decry Easter Sunday shooting in Pakistan

 


Christians decry Easter Sunday shooting in Pakistan

April 1, 2005

By Anto Akkara*

NEW DELHI (ENI)—Church officials in Pakistan say the firing on a Christian congregation during Easter Sunday that killed one worshipper and injured seven others shows the vulnerability of the Christian community in the Muslim-majority nation.

Armed assailants fired bullets at the Christians on Easter Sunday, March 27, when about 50 worshippers in Khahamba village near Lahore were leaving a service at the New Apostolic Church in the locality.

"This (attack) shows the vulnerability of the Christian community," said Sohail Aktar, spokesperson for the National Council of Churches of Pakistan, which groups four major

Protestant churches in the south Asian country. The nation’s Methodists are part of the Church of Pakistan, which also includes the Anglicans, Lutherans and Presbyterians.

Speaking to Ecumenical News International from the council’s office in Lahore, Aktar said the latest attack on the Christians "reinforces our helplessness," and noted, "If we try to resist them, things become very difficult for us."

More than 95 percent of Pakistan’s 141 million people are Muslims, while Christians number just more than 3 million. Hindus and traditional believers account for the rest of the population.

Half a dozen major shooting incidents on church targets in Pakistan have claimed the lives of more than 36 Christians since October 2001, when the United States and its allies launched military action in neighboring Afghanistan.

Wasim Mundizar of the Centre for Legal Aid Assistance & Settlement, a Christian social action group that made an on-the-spot study of the attack, said the majority Muslims in the village were "demanding the return of land their Muslim ancestors had donated decades back" to landless Christians who are mostly illiterate and survive carrying out menial jobs.

"But the Christians refused to return the land where they have built a church and also have their cemetery," said Mundizar, who visited the site of the shooting.

Quoting victims being treated in hospital, Mundizar said the shootout was carried out by the people who had been in the forefront of the dispute with the Christians demanding the land. Police have arrested four people in connection with the attack and confiscated assault weapons.

"This is another instance of the overall discrimination and intolerance against the non-Muslims here," lamented Samson Joseph, of the Roman Catholic Justice and Peace Commission of Pakistan. "The majority (community) finds it difficult to accept us and wants to always dominate and dictate terms to us."

*Akkara is a writer for Ecumenical News International, which distributed this story.

News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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