Pope Francis condemns bombing of Pakistani churches amid street protests by Pakistani Christians
Pope Francis condemned Sunday's bombing of two Pakistani Churches in Lahore while Pakistani Christians launched large-scale protests against the attack.
Two suicide bombers detonated their explosives in front of two churches in Lahore on Sunday, killing 15 people in what has been described as the worst terrorist attack in Lahore since 2013.
The Taliban's splinter group Jamaat-ul-Ahrar claimed responsibility for the attacks.
"These are Christian churches and Christians are persecuted, our Christian brothers are spilling their blood simply because they are Christians," Pope Francis is quoted by The News International as saying.
The statements were delivered during the Pope's address after his weekly Angelus prayer.
"I implore God... that this persecution against Christians - that the world seeks to hide - comes to an end and that there is peace," he prayed.
Pakistani Christians also took to the streets on Monday to protest the attack. Hundreds of Christians set up blockades in major roads in the eastern cities of Lahore, Faisalabad, Sargodha and Gujranwala.
According to USA Today, the protesters crippled the city's transport system, causing it to cease operating. They also prevented motorists from passing through the ruins of the destroyed churches and attacked a metro bus. The attack prompted the government to shorten bus routes to steer buses and passengers away from the protesting Christians.
In addition, USA Today reported that the protesting in Faisalabad took a violent turn when the angry crowd attacked a passing rickshaw. They also burned tires and blocked access to the Kamalpur Interchange in Faisalabad.
Several people have called for calm among the Christians, including Lahore's Metro Bus Authority Managing Director Sibtain and Kamran Michael, Pakistani shipping and ports minister who is also a Christian community leader.
Pakistan's Federal Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said that the attacks were an act of "utter desperation" as Pakistan's armed forces close in on the militants.
"We have shrunk the space for them to operate in," he said in an article at the Pakistan Herald.