Pakistan (MNN) — The country of Pakistan and the world are in shock today after Opposition Leader Benazir Bhutto was killed Thursday in a suicide attack. She was driving away from a campaign rally just minutes after addressing thousands of supporters when the attack took place. According to reports, a man first shot the 54-year-old Bhutto twice before blowing himself up, killing as many as 20 and injuring dozens more.
The death of the charismatic former prime minister threw the campaign for the Jan. 8 election into chaos and created fears of mass protests and an eruption of violence across the volatile south Asian nation.
Next to President Pervez Musharraf, Bhutto was the best-known political figure in the country, serving two terms as prime minister between 1988 and 1996. She was respected in the West for her liberal outlook and determination to combat the spread of Islamic extremism, a theme she returned to often in her campaign speeches.
Open Doors supports the evangelical church in Pakistan, which numbers about 2 percent. Minister-at-large for the ministry, Paul Estabrooks, says, "This seems to be a real upset in the country. Is he going to impose martial law because of the violence which could result, or will he allow the elections to go ahead?"
According to Estabrooks, al Qaeda is probably responsible. "She really believed that it was extremist Muslims that were out to kill her. That was her personal belief. I don't think she was a paranoid person, so I think there was something to her beliefs on this."
Estabrooks predicts the immediate future doesn't look good for the country or for Christians. "I think there's going to be some turmoil for quite some time over this, and of course in the past Christians have often been the object of anger of the dominantly Muslim society there."
However, he believes this could give Christians a platform to make more of a difference in that culture. "One of the criticisms of the church in Pakistan is that they haven't come to the front and spoken out against crimes like what has just happened. They're always worried, of course, of creating more anger against them. So it's a really delicate tight-rope that they have to walk."
While Christians must be careful, Estabrooks is hoping that "out of this crisis, which seems to be so terrible, that God will give opportunities for our Christin brothers and sisters to share their faith with their community, both at a public statement level and in an individual one-on-one."