Pakistan: 14 dead and more than 70 wounded in Taliban attack against two Christian churches

At least 14 people were killed and over 70 were wounded this morning in suicide attacks against two churches in Youhanabad, Lahore's Christian quarter, in Pakistan.

Taken with kind permission from the Newsletter "Intolerance and Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief“ edited by Willy Fautré on behalf of Human Rights Without Frontiers Int'l - 

Asia News (15.03.2015) - At least 14 people were killed and over 70 were wounded this morning in suicide attacks against two churches in Youhanabad, Lahore's Christian quarter, in Pakistan.  

A spokesman for the Punjab police reported that the two churches, which are 500 metres apart, were St John's Catholic Church and Christ Church (Protestant).
Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan Jamaatul Ahrar (TTP-JA) claimed responsibility for both attacks.  

Initial reports indicate that, at the time of the explosions, 800 people were present in one church and 1,100 people in the other

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif condemned the blasts.

The death toll is constantly updated. Given the high number of wounded, the hospitals of Lahore called on residents to donate blood.

Christian schools in Karachi and Punjab announced that they will be closed tomorrow. 

In Karachi, a demonstration got underway to protest against the attacks on the two churches.

The attackers decided to strike during Sunday services to achieve the most devastation.  

According to eyewitnesses, two suicide bombers reached the gates of the two churches and tried to enter them. When they were stopped, they blew themselves up.

"We have carried out the attack," TTP JA spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan told The Express Tribune. "We have reached Lahore, the centre of Punjab province, which is a challenge and a warning to the rulers," Ehsan said.

Immediately after the attacks, a crowd gathered to protest the lack of police protection. A young man, thought to have been involved in one of the attacks, was lynched and burned alive by an angry mob.

More than 100,000 Christians live in the Youhanabad area.  

Lahore is the capital of Punjab, Pakistan's most populous and richest province. The city is generally considered peaceful compared with many other areas of Pakistan.

Muslim leaders condemn Lahore church attacks

Asia News (16.03.2015) - At least 50 Islamic religious leaders unanimously condemned the suicide attacks that struck two churches in Lahore, killing 17 people, including some Muslims.   
Allama Thair Ashrafi, head of the Pakistan Ulema Council (PUC), was one of them. "The government should strictly follow the newly unveiled national action plan in curbing terrorism," he told AsiaNews.
Speaking at a press conference, he and 20 other Islamic scholars held at the Lahore Press Club, he went on to say that "There is no division between good or bad Taliban; whoever is guilty must be punished. " The "13,600 madrassas and 74,000 mosques linked with the council are cooperating with government in standing against terrorism".
Calling what happened "a great tragedy," Ashrafi explained that as soon as the attacks were known, "We immediately took madrassa students to the hospitals where the wounded had been brought. We reject all forms of terrorism."
As funerals got underway today, the streets of Youhanabad, the Christian quarter, filled with the sound of weeping and crying. Tensions remain high in the city. Local TV stations have broadcast scenes of Christians and Muslims clashing in some parts of Lahore. In view of the situation, army rangers have been deployed to maintain law and order.

"We cannot endorse this reaction," Irfan Mufti, executive director of the South Asia Partnership-Pakistan (SAP), told AsiaNews. "Catholic bishops must clearly say that those involved in the killing [of terrorist suspects] were not with the Christians. Christianity is a religion of peace, and we expect the same message."
In fact, like Mgr Joseph Coutts, archbishop of Karachi and President of the Pakistan Catholic Bishops' Conference of Pakistan (PCBC), the Bishop of Faisalabad Mgr Joseph Arshad has condemned the lynching of two suspected terrorists. He urged Christians to "remain peaceful" and call on "everyone to abstain from summary justice."
"Only animals kill [people] and destroy churches, mosques, Imambargahs (Shia congregation halls, and other places of worship," said Abdul Kabor Azad, a preacher (khatib) from the Badshahi Mosque - the second largest in Pakistan. "Most ulema," he noted, "are united against terrorism and many have received threats for speaking out against the Taliban."
"We share the pain of our Christian brothers," Azad added. "Together we shall try to build a peaceful and prosperous country. I ask Christians to remain tolerant."
However, many Pakistanis remain sceptical about the statements by Islamic leaders. For many people, they are responsible for the prevailing religious intolerance in Pakistani society.   
A delegation of Muslim scholars found this out when they joined a demonstration organised outside the headquarters of the Punjab Legislative Assembly.
Mufti Muhammad Muneeb-ur-Rehman, chairman of the Roet-e-Hilal Central Committee and the Tanzim ul Madaris Al Arbia, had to cut short his address when protestors started shouting slogans against mullaism.

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