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Media Contact: William Stark, Regional Manager for Africa and South Asia: RM-AfricaAsia@persecution.org
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
At Least 81 Christians Killed as Twin Suicide Bombers Attack Sunday Service in Pakistan
Attack Sparks Christian Led Protests
International Christian Concern
International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that at least 81 Christians have been killed in a suicide bombing of a historical church in Peshawar, the capital city of Pakistan's northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province on Sunday. This bombing is the deadliest single attack on Christians in Pakistan's history and has sparked protests across the nation.
According to reports from Peshawar, two suicide bombers detonated themselves outside the gates of All Saints Church at 11:45 a.m. as the church's more that 600 members were leaving after the Sunday service. The resulting scene was that of mass carnage with shrapnel, body parts and blood littering the surrounding area.
According to security officials, many of the dead are women and children and over 150 others were injured in the blast. Most of the wounded were brought to Lady Reading Hospital Peshawar and many of the bodies of the dead were buried in three mass graves late Sunday night.
All Saints Church was established in 1883 and is considered one of the oldest Christian places of worship in Pakistan's volatile Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
The Jundallah group, an affiliate with the Pakistani Taliban, has claimed responsibility for the deadly attack, labeling the murder of 81 Christians a "protest" to the U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan. The group's leader, Ahmad Marwat, promised that attacks would continue until the U.S. drone strikes were halted.
News of the attack has sparked Christian led protests in many of Pakistan's major cities including Islamabad, Lahore, Karachi and Peshawar. Relatives of the dead and injured gathered for a protest outside of All Saints Church, lighting tires on fire and claiming police and local government officials did not do enough to protect Christians and the church.
In response to the attack, Pakistan's government has declared three days of mourning and is offering financial support to the victims and their families. Pakistan's new Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, issued a statement in which he pledged solidarity with Pakistan's Christian community. "Terrorists have no religion, and targeting innocent people is against the teaching of Islam and all religions," he said.
Christians, making up only 2% of Pakistan's population, have been and continue to be persecuted by extremist elements in Pakistan's majority Muslim population. False blasphemy accusations, kidnappings, murders, forced conversions, forced marriages, rapes and widespread social discrimination only name a few of the types of persecution Christians in Pakistan are forced to endure because of their religious identity.
ICC's Regional Manager for Africa, William Stark, said, "Christians continue to be treated like an unwanted religious minority in Pakistan. Although Pakistan's government has stepped forward to assist the victims of this deadly attack, it has not done enough to provide Christians with security or guarantee their right to religious freedom. False blasphemy accusations are disproportionately targeted at Christians who are often awarded lengthy prison or death sentences where little evidence has been offered against them in a court of law. Unless and until Pakistan starts taking decisive action to protect its Christian population, deadly attacks like this most recent bombing will continue."
For interviews, contact William Stark, Regional Manager for Africa and South Asia: RM-AfricaAsia@persecution.org
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