Lahore attacks: 'Christians will not lose hope'

Christians in Pakistan will not lose hope in the wake of an attack which killed at least 70 on Easter Sunday, Christian Today was told on Monday.

It was the bloodiest attack on Christians in Pakistan in several years. Over 300 were injured in a suicide blast that rocked a children's playground in Lahore on Easter Sunday. Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, a Taliban faction group who claimed responsibility, said their target was Christians.

Mourners gather outside the park in Lahore where at least 70 were killed on Easter SundayReuters

It was the deadliest attack since a church bombing in Peshawar in 2013 killed 80. However the chairman of the British-Pakistani Christian Association (BPCA), Wilson Chowdhry, told Christian Today Christianity would continue to grow.

"Christians in Pakistan have suffered bomb attack after bomb attack. They are suppressed, beaten and their daughters are forced into marriages with Muslim men," he said.

"Have all these attacks ever dented their hope? No."

Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali, a British-Pakistani Anglican bishop echoed Chowdhry's remarks.

"The Christian community will not lose hope even under the most difficult of circumstances," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"Our God is a God who suffers with his people and out of that comes resurrection," he continued.

"We must retain hope in God."

On the same day as the attacks thousands gathered in Islamabad to protest the execution of Mumtaz Qadri who had shot Salman Taseer in 2011. Taseer had campaigned for reform of Pakistan's notorious blasphemy laws. He had also championed the cause of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman sentenced to death in a blasphemy case that arose out of a personal dispute.

The protestors have staged a sit in outside Islamabad's parliament and made a list of demands including the implementation of Sharia law and the immediate execution of Bibi, who remains on death row.

Chowdhry told Christian Today the attack should have been expected as tensions against Christians were significantly increased.

"Knowing Christians would be celebrating Easter in the parks, I can't understand why the government would not take precautionary measures," he told Christian Today.

"I am sure that this growing hatred of minorities in the wake of Mr Qadri's death was a trigger for today's blast," he said.

Lahore holds a large proportion of Pakistan's minority Christian population. Chowdhry said he thought this was why the militants targeted the city, which has until now been relatively free from terrorist attacks. 

However the Punjab government denied the attack was specifically targeted at Christians.

The Archbishop of Canterbury was among those to offer prayers for the victims.

Chowdhry urged supporters to pray for Pakistani Christians and has set up a fund to support the victims' families. You can find out more here.