At least 16 people have been confirmed dead in twin suicide bomb attacks against two churches in the city of Lahore, Pakistan, on Sunday 15 March, and over 100 more were injured.
Fighters from the Jamaatul Ahrar a splinter group from the Pakistani Taliban targeted two churches separated by around half a kilometre in the city’s Youhanabad neighbourhood, one of the largest Christian communities in the country. The bombs caused chaos as broken window panes and blood scattered the sites.
The blasts occurred in the morning when around 2,000 Christians were meeting together to worship in the two churches. At both sites, the bombers were prevented from entering the church buildings by security guards posted at the gates. A local witness to the attack at Christ Church said, “I rushed to see [what was happening] and saw a young boy approaching the church entrance, while aiming at everyone in front of him with an automatic machine gun. He shot the policeman standing outside the church, killing him instantly.” One church member, who was acting as a volunteer security guard, died alongside the policeman while another overpowered the boy and dragged him away from the entrance. He blew himself up killing the guard and two others, one of whom was a pregnant woman.
At the other church the suicide bomber attempted to scale the church boundary wall, but a volunteer security guard from the church pulled him down. He blew himself up killing the guard and several others. The brave actions of the guards at both churches prevented many more deaths.
Local sources report that the death toll has risen to 17 and is expected to increase.
“We strongly condemn and lack words to express our feelings of the sad incident in the churches of Youhanabad,” said our partner Rt. Rev. Irfan Jamil, Church of Pakistan Bishop of Lahore, speaking to Barnabas Fund. “The grief and sorrow of the families who have lost their loved ones and those who have been injured is immeasurable. We pray for comfort among the grieved families and pray for speedy recovery of the wounded.”
Funerals have been taking place for the Christians who were killed, including a joint funeral for ten on 17 March. Leaders from various Christian denominations, as well as political leaders and over 10,000 Christians from the local community attended joint the funeral ceremony.
On the day following the attacks, Muslim residents gathered in Youhanabad to harass the Christian community. Shouting “Allahu Akbar” (god is great) they fired shots into the air and threw stones at another church in the neighbourhood.
A representative of Jamaatul Ahar told al-Jazeera, “We promise that until an Islamic system is put into place in Pakistan, such attacks will continue.” Jamaatul Ahrar pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group in the Middle East, which has been effectively cleansing its territory of Christians and other non-Muslims by repeated acts of brutal terror.
Barnabas Fund has sent emergency aid to help the victims with medical costs, funeral costs and other needs. If you would like to support Pakistan Christians who have been affected by the suicide bomb attacks in Lahore, please send your donation to our Pakistan Christian Victims of Violence Fund (project 41-842).