Pakistan: Call to protect minority places of worship as Christians mark church bombing anniversary

(AP)Pakistani Christian worshippers, some of them who survived the suicide bombing, are pictured praying during a special mass for the victims the day after, Monday, September 23, 2013.

The horrific bombing of a church in Pakistan last year is on the minds of the country's Christians as they mark the first anniversary on Monday.

All Saints Church in Peshawar was attacked by two suicide bombers on 22 September 2013, killing 98 people. Over 150 were injured.

It is regarded as the worst attack on a church in Pakistan's history and one year on, Christians and other religious minorities remain vulnerable in a country where the government has struggled to bring extremists under control.

Just days before the one year anniversary, Christian Solidarity Worldwide criticised the handling of aid to victims' families and the injured in the aftermath of the bombing.

The organisation said victims who were being treated in hospitals for their injuries were "forcibly removed" because delays to the compensation promised by the government meant they were unable to pay the hospital bills.

As late as 10 September 2014, compensation cheques of around £3,000 each were issued to families of the deceased by the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) Governor. The injured received just under £2,000 each.

However, CSW is concerned by continued delays to the distribution of a promised £1.2 million fund for orphans and widows.

The delay is in spite of a Supreme Court ruling delivered on 19 June which ordered the federal government to be swift in paying compensation to the victims, and to establish a "Special Police Force" to protect the places of worship of minorities.

CSW chief executive Mervyn Thomas said "justice must be served" as he called for the outstanding compensation to be delivered "without further delay".

"We urge the government of Pakistan to be proactive in combating the threat of extremism, and to enact the ruling of the Supreme Court, in order to ensure protection for places of worship and communities of minority faiths," he said.

Lifestyle