KARACHI: “The terrorists go after soft targets like minorities, schools, our children, our daughters. Sadly this government has failed to protect them all,” said activist and former MPA Michael Javed during a demonstration outside the Karachi Press Club on Sunday, marking the fourth week of Lent.
They came holding up the cross and placards that read ‘United against terrorism’ with black bands around their arms and heads and chanting ‘Hallelujah’. The women sat on the floor and were surrounded by the men. Among the many women was Margaret Javed, a senior citizen from Pahar Ganj, De Silva Town, who was just recovering from recent gallbladder surgery. “We are in minority as it is. How could I have stayed behind at home?” she said while holding on to her side.
“I condole with the families of those who lost their lives in the attack and pray for the injured,” said Karachi division leader of the PPP’s minority wing Mushtaq Mattoo.
‘I particularly appeal to all Christians to voice their protests in a peaceful manner’
“I know there were more deaths in the tragic incident at the churches in Lahore than is being reported by the electronic media,” cried a youngster from the St Thomas Church in Malir during the protest.
“Christians played a role in the making of Pakistan. We condemn all terrorist attacks be they on mosques, imambargahs, schools or churches but this current government has failed to protect them,” said Reverend Rafaqat Sadiq of the United Presbyterian Church of Pakistan.
“You tell me, what else do you want me to understand from what happened? With over one lakh Christians living in Youhanabad and about a 100 churches in the area, the place was always under threat. And even the four guards stationed outside the two churches were watching the cricket match between Pakistan and Ireland. Did they have no sense of duty?” the reverend said.
Following the terrorist attacks on the two churches in Lahore’s Youhanabad on Sunday, overcome by their emotions and anger many young men belonging to the Christian community came out on the streets to vent their feelings. There were angry mobs all over Karachi. Burning tyres and attacking vehicles, people of Essa Nagri blocked the road between Hasan Square and Gharibabad. More such city disturbances were reporter from Nadira Chowk in Nazimabad, the KDA Chowrangi in North Nazimabad, near Comprehensive School in Azizabad, Punjab Colony in Sharifabad, Choona Depot in Liaquatabad, Korangi and Allahwali Chowk in Surjani Town.
Meanwhile, at St Patrick’s Cathedral, Father Mario Rodrigues, the parish priest, said the Bible teaches how to forgive. “What has happened is very sad and condemnable but we also understand that it is the work of terrorists,” he said.
The Archbishop of Karachi, Most Reverend Joseph Coutts, said he understood the reaction of the young Christians who went on a rampage in the city after the attacks but that was no way.
“Terrorists have struck again without any respect or concern for human life. Once again the state has not been able to provide safety to its citizens and millions continue to live in a state of constant tension and fear, not knowing what to expect next,” he said.
“We have grown tired of condemning such atrocities so freely carried out at the will of terrorists. But I appeal to all citizens of goodwill to be united in this time of sadness and loss. Our solidarity is essential to show the terrorists that we condemn their methods of senseless violence. As citizens of Pakistan we should stand up as one body to support each other for the good of our country.
“I particularly appeal to all Christians to voice their protests in a peaceful manner, and not to resort to violence and destruction of public property which serves no purpose. During this period of 40 days of prayer and fasting, we must now put our thoughts to how we can give generously to those who are injured and traumatised and be a support to our suffering brethren,” he added.
As a sign of mourning for this tragic loss of life and in solidarity with those who have lost their friends and dear ones, the archbishop of Karachi announced that all schools and educational institutions of the Catholic Archdiocese of Karachi and of the Church of Pakistan in Karachi will remain closed on Monday. Prayer services will be held in all churches throughout the city at 6pm.
He appealed to the government also to intensify its efforts to provide security to all citizens. “In June 2014 the former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Pakistan had issued an order to the Prime Minister and all Chief Ministers to provide protection for all minority religious places, and to appoint a Task Force for this purpose.
This order of the Supreme Court has not been implemented. This new act of terrorism has cruelly shown how defenceless we are due to this neglect,” he said.
Walking with his wife and three little children towards the St Patrick’s Cathedral, Vincent Thomas, a family man, said that he, too, was overcome by anger after seeing on TV what happened in Lahore. “Then I remembered my scripture lessons. Then all I wanted to do was come to church, bow my head and pray,” he said.
Published in Dawn, March 16th, 2015