Christians under Increasing Attack in Pakistan

The Washington DC-based human rights group International Christian Concern (ICC) has warned that attacks on Christians in Pakistan are on the rise after it learned that a drunken mob of Muslims attacked a Christian congregation in Lahore Pakistan with guns and clubs.

While no one was seriously injured in the attack on the Church of the Nazarene last month - the eighth known attack on a Pakistani church in 2006 alone - it highlights the constant hatred and persecution that Christians live under in Pakistan, ICC warned.

The human rights group said the attack on the church reveals the "woefully inadequate security cover" provided to protect the places of worship of religious minorities.

"A wave of fear and insecurity grips the already marginalised Christian community every time a church building is vandalised, stoned, or burned," ICC said.

"Attacks on churches undermine the confidence of Pakistani Christians, lower their morale, suppress their creativity and make them feel incredibly insecure in their own homeland. Many stop going to churches for an extended period of time, afraid that they themselves will be abused, stoned, or burned."

The worshippers at the Church of the Nazarene are some of the poorest members of Pakistani society, ICC said. Many Christians in Pakistan work as brick-makers who even have to work Sundays, forcing them to meet for church in the evening after work.

ICC said that Pakistani officials needed to hand out punishment to the perpetrators of church attacks commensurate with their crimes in order to stop the offences from continuing, as it warned that the rhetoric of authorities in the aftermath of such attacks had only a "cosmetic effect".

The charity fears that the patience of Pakistani Christians, who have so far accepted the attacks without retaliation, may wear thin if the government takes no action to protect the churches and that they could take to the streets en masse to express their frustration.

ICC called on the Pakistani government to expand its security provisions to include churches located in remote areas of the country away from the relatively protected churches in the larger cities. Rural churches still remain susceptible to attacks by the Muslim mobs.

It also called for the Pakistani government to implement "a forceful security plan" to protect churches in Pakistan and said the issue must be debated both in the National Assembly (Lower House of Parliament) and the Senate (Upper House of Parliament).

Although some NGOs are working in Pakistan to boost inter-faith dialogue and harmony, "there is still much to be done," said ICC.

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