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Christians riot in Pakistan after attacks targeting churches kill 14

Sunday 15 March 2015, by siawi3


Photo: Suicide bombers attacked two churches in Lahore, Pakistan, killing 14 people and wounding dozens. (Reuters)

By Tim Craig March 15 at 12:39 PM

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Christians rampaged through the streets of Lahore on Sunday after suicide bombers attacked two churches during morning services, killing at least 14 people and wounding more than 70.
The Pakistani Taliban took credit for the attacks, reviving concerns that the Islamist militant group will increasingly target religious minorities in a bid to further divide Pakistanis and distract them from ongoing military operations against extremists.

According to police, at least two suicide bombers tried to strike at Catholic and Protestant churches in a predominately Christian neighborhood of Lahore and were stopped either by worshipers or security personnel. But the bombers still detonated their explosives, causing heavy damage to St. John’s Catholic Church and Christ Church, which is affiliated with the Church of Pakistan.

Most of the casualties occurred at the Catholic church, where as many as 1,000 worshipers were inside. Speaking from St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican, Pope Francis condemned the violence and called on Christians around the world to support the victims.

Photo: Pakistani Christians set fires during a protest in the aftermath of two suicide attacks targeting churches in a Christian area of Lahore on 15 March 2015. (Shahzaib Akber/EPA)

“Our brothers shed blood only because they are Christians,†the pope said, according to Vatican Radio .

After the bombings, Christians in Lahore began smashing windows and blocking traffic. According to local media reports, two people were lynched. There were also reports of a mob burning to death a man suspected of involvement in the attacks.

Christians make up about 1 to 2 percent of Pakistan’s population, but some analysts say Christians account for up to 10 percent of Lahore’s population. Many Christians in Pakistan are poorly educated and relegated to living in slums and working menial jobs.
They are also frequently attacked by terrorists or angry neighbors. In September 2013, more than 80 were killed in a suicide bombing targeting a church in Peshawar just as Sunday services were ending.

Peter Jacobs, a Christian activist in Lahore, said Pakistani Christians feel as if they are being pushed out of the country, where 97 percent of the population is Muslim.
Even though Pakistan’s military continues to battle Islamist militants in the northwest, Jacobs said not enough is being done to address the “root causes of extremism.â€
“There is so much hate speech against minorities and flaws in the school curriculum, but nothing has been done to do away with it,†he said.
Other religious minorities in Sunni-dominated Pakistan, including Shiites, Ahmadis, Sikhs and Hindus, also are often targeted.
Pakistani intelligence officials say militants are trying to erode national support for the military by making minorities feel less safe.