Pakistan (MNN) – On Friday, days after a massive church bombing in Peshawar, Pakistan, another bomb exploded on a crowded bus carrying government officials. This blast killed 17 people and wounded more than 40. It was the second major attack in or near the northwestern Pakistani city in a week.
A Taliban splinter group claimed responsibility for that attack as well. Both were reportedly in retaliation for American drone strikes in the nearby tribal belt. However, the attacks also spurred new conversation about the wisdom of peace talks with the terror group as well as security for the minorities they were targeting.
In fact, the security issues provoked demonstrations on Monday and Tuesday that brought parts of Pakistan’s cities to a standstill. Voice of the Martyrs Canada spokesman Greg Musselman explains, “That led to Christians protesting in cities around the country saying ‘the military needs to do a better job of protecting us. The police, in many cases, situations have happened and we’ve seen government officials, police, and military, not be very active.” Christians held crosses aloft, burned tires and blocked roads across the country as they demanded better protection from the government.
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has warned that the attack on All Saints Church could be the first of many if Pakistan’s government doesn’t take decisive action to bring the perpetrators to justice. Musselman agrees. Violence tends to build its own momentum. “As one colony is attacked, or a church is bombed or Christians are attacked, then it causes others to say ‘this is a good way of going after these infidels, these ones that love the West.’ It’s used as an excuse to attack the fear definitely is that these kinds of things will continue and become more violent.”
After confirming the attack on All Saints Church as the deadliest attack on Pakistani Christians in Pakistan’s history, USCIRF said that words and promises to protect the religious minority will not be enough to stop the ever escalating levels of intolerance sweeping across Pakistan. “Certainly, the government of Pakistan and local officials don’t want to see these kinds of suicide bombings and massive attacks, but then what that led to was Christians saying ‘you NEED to protect us.’ That’s the word coming from governments around the world ‘you need to do a better job of protecting your minorities, in this case, Christians.’”
What’s more, the Taliban group issued this threat through Reuters: “(The Christians) are the enemies of Islam, therefore we target them. We will continue our attacks on non-Muslims on Pakistani land.” To that, Musselman adds, “This has been going on for a long time. I don’t think it’s going to get any better. But, it has caused the church of Christ in Pakistan and many corners of the country to stand up and say ‘we’re here too, and we have a right to be here.’”
Pakistan ranked 14th out of 50 on Open Doors USA’s World Watch List of countries that persecute Christians. If the pattern holds true, there will be more headlines and more bloodshed. To that end, Musselman urges solidarity among the followers of Christ. “Be praying that the Lord will continue to draw people to himself. Then also, (pray) for the protection of these new believers, especially those from Muslim backgrounds and then also for the Christian leaders that they would have wisdom on how they talk to their people.” And share their story. If we do not speak for them while they are suffering, who will be left to speak when it comes to us?