What is the ‘international community’ doing about it? When this story broke over the weekend, the sense of dread already finding new depths lately fell deeper.
A pair of suicide bombers blew themselves up amid hundreds of worshippers at a historic church in northwestern Pakistan on Sunday, killing 78 people in the deadliest-ever attack against the country’s Christian minority.
Full stop. It’s been bloody terrifying to live in even a very small and quiet Christian community in a number of places in the world for a while and that reality has been on the increase in God only knows how long now. But think about that statement…”the deadliest-ever attack against the country’s Christian minority.”
A wing of the Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the bombing, raising new questions about the government’s push to strike a peace deal with the militants to end a decade-long insurgency that has killed thousands of people.
And who is answering those questions? Or responding in any active, significant way? Because this is a dire emergency.
The attack on the All Saints Church, which wounded 141 people, occurred as worshippers were leaving after services to get a free meal of rice offered on the front lawn, said a top government administrator, Sahibzada Anees.
“There were blasts and there was hell for all of us,” said Nazir John, who was at the church in the city’s Kohati Gate district along with at least 400 other worshippers. “When I got my senses back, I found nothing but smoke, dust, blood and screaming people. I saw severed body parts and blood all around.”
Survivors wailed and hugged one another in the wake of the blasts. The white walls of the church, which first opened in the late 1800s, were pockmarked with holes caused by ball bearings contained in the bombs to cause maximum damage. Blood stained the floor and the walls. Plates filled with rice were scattered on the ground.
This is horrific.
The 78 dead included 34 women and seven children, said Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan. Another 37 children were among the 141 wounded, he said.
The number of casualties from the blasts was so high that the hospital ran short of caskets for the dead and beds for the wounded, said Mian Iftikhar Hussain, a former information minister of surrounding Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province who was on the scene.
“This is the deadliest attack against Christians in our country,” said Irfan Jamil, the bishop of the eastern city of Lahore.
What is being done?
Pope Francis led several thousand people in a prayer for the victims while on a visit to Sardinia. Those who carried out the attack, he said, “took the wrong choice, one of hatred and war.”
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned the “atrocious” attack in the strongest possible terms and expressed deep concern at “the repeated attacks of blind violence against religious and ethnic minorities in Pakistan,” U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky said.
Ban said “these acts of terror cannot be justified by any cause,” reiterated the U.N.’s solidarity with the government’s ongoing struggle against terrorism and extremism, and urged the government to continue effort to build tolerance and strengthen relations between diverse religious and ethnic communities, Nesirky said.
One of the wounded, John Tariq, who lost his father in the attack, demanded of those behind the bombing: “What have we done wrong to these people? Why are we being killed?”
People need more than answers, they need aid for the survivors, relief for the suffering, protection from further terror, a strong response to escalating hateful violence and a pro-active demonstration of intolerance for terrorism like this by people who have voices that will be heard among those who commit these acts. For crying out loud.
Pakistani Prime Minister Sharif evidently is not getting through in any meaningful way. This is horrible.
And then there’s Syria and the atrocities being committed there.
Rebels led by al-Qa’ida-linked fighters gained control of a Christian town north-east of the capital, Damascus…
Maaloula, strategically located in the mountains overlooking Damascus, is a Unesco World Heritage Site, hailed as a beacon of Christianity and one of the last places in the world where the ancient language of Aramaic [the language of Jesus Christ] is spoken. The Muslim population has grown in recent decades, and the two religions frequently wage a war of words over loudspeakers, Friday prayers from the town’s two new mosques competing for attention with hymns of nuns that reverberate through the valley.
Now, the town has fallen into a far more violent back-and-forth as government forces have battled to regain control from the al-Qa’ida-linked Jabhat al-Nusra rebels, who first overran government roadblocks and entered the town…
…the recent kidnappings of prominent Orthodox bishops, plus the Christian peace activist Father Paolo Dall’Oglio, have raised disturbing parallels to the height of sectarian violence in Iraq, and fears that Syria’s Christian minority may not survive the war.
And in Egypt…
The last month and a half has seen perhaps the worst anti-Christian violence in Egypt in seven centuries, with dozens of churches torched. Yet the western media has mainly focused on army assaults on the Muslim Brotherhood, and no major political figure has said anything about the sectarian attacks.
Re-read that. This is “perhaps the worse anti-Christian violence in Egypt in seven centuries.” Yet look at the follow up sentence about the western media and the world’s major political figures.
Last week at the National Liberal Club there was a discussion asking why the American and British press have ignored or under-reported this persecution, and (in some people’s minds) given a distorted narrative of what is happening.
Judging by the accounts given by one of the other speakers, Nina Shea of the Center for Religious Freedom, the American press is even more blind, and their government not much better…
The night ended with historian Tom Holland declaring sadly that we are now seeing the extinction of Christianity and other minority faiths in the Middle East. As he pointed out, it’s the culmination of the long process that began in the Balkans in the late 19th century, reached its horrific European climax in 1939-1945, and continued with the Greeks of Alexandria, the Mizrahi Jews and most recently the Chaldo-Assyrian Christians of Iraq. The Copts may have the numbers to hold on, Holland said, and the Jews of Israel, but can anyone else?
Pay attention, world. This demands an all-in effort to aid humanity and fundamental human rights. But the world is busy and distracted. That’s both understandable, and incomprehensible when this is happening.
The saddest audience question was from a young man who I’m guessing was Egyptian-British. He asked: ‘Where was world Christianity when this happened?’
Nowhere. Watching X-Factor. Debating intersectionality. Or just too frightened of controversy to raise Muslim-on-Christian violence.
That’s a very likely reality.
The most outspoken British religious leader has been Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, and the debate brought to mind something Rabbi Sacks recently said about Middle Eastern Christians, comparing their fate with those of the Jews in Europe, and quoting Martin Luther King: ‘In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.’