Quetta (Agenzia Fides) - A crowd of over 1,500 Christians from all over Pakistan, members of the five confessions present in the country, gathered today in the Christian cemetery of Quetta, for the funeral of the victims of the attack on the Bethel Memorial Methodist Church, which upset the capital of Baluchistan on December 17. The Mass was celebrated by Bishop Sadiq Daniel, who leads the Anglican community in the provinces of Sindh and Beluchistan, who arrived in Quetta from Karachi. Next to him there was also Catholic Bishop Victor Gnanapragasm, of the Apostolic Vicariate of Quetta, who visited the wounded and prayed for them. Thirteen people died and fifty-six were injured, nine of whom are in critical condition. Four men armed with bombs and with suicide vests broke into the compound that houses the church building, the priests’ and staffs’ residence, the community hall and a small room for children’s catechism.
At noon yesterday, an armed man, covered with a shawl, tried to enter the church, but was stopped by the security guard. Passing through the first door, three others started throwing bombs on the courtyard ground: the more than 400 faithful who crowded the church noticed the attack. Among the testimonies gathered by Agenzia Fides, a wounded woman said: "We moved towards the altar to protect ourselves, but they continued to bomb the church and hit the doors to enter". Haroon James, one of the injured, told Fides: "When I realized it was an attack, I immediately went to the school of catechism where the children were: I closed the door and pushed a wardrobe in front of the doors, to protect them". James was injured by two bullets in the lower part of the body, while some of the children were slightly injured.
Allama Mohammad Ahsan Siddiqui, president of the "Interfaith Commission for Peace and Harmony" condemned the attack on the church and told Fides: "This is an attack on Pakistan, which wants to undermine peace and harmony in the country. I urge the Government of Pakistan to do more to provide adequate security to places of worship and I ask religious leaders to stay united to help those affected".
Kailash Sarhadi, Director of the NGO "MasterPeace", told Fides: "It is very sad that once again minorities in Pakistan are targeted during their religious holidays.
The agenda of terrorist groups is destabilizing Pakistan especially in the province of Beluchistan". Recalling also the attacks on mosques, Sarhadi notes that "these terrorists have no religion". "Islam does not teach to kill innocent people", adds Syed Yaqoob Ali Shah, president of the International Peace Council for Interfaith harmony, noting the "negligence of the security forces", since armed men were not stopped in any of the checkpoints and managed to reach the church. (AG) (Agenzia Fides, 18/12/2017)