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At least 74 killed in Easter day suicide bombing

31 March 2016

At least 74 people were killed and more than 370 injured when a suicide bomber targeted families celebrating in a park on Easter Day. Some of the victims were Christians, including children and young people, who were out celebrating the Easter holiday. One pastor spoke of the grief of having had to bury six members of his congregation the following day.

Sunday's attack at Gulshan Iqbal Park, Lahore, was claimed by Jamaatul Ahrar, a splinter group who broke away from the Pakistani Taliban, who also stated that they would be continuing to attack Christians and other specific target groups. 

Christians are living in fear, not knowing where or when the next attack will come. “Fear is a fact of life for us here,” said Parvaiz Masih, a Christian who suffered a broken leg and shrapnel wounds in the attack. “From morning till night, we feel fear not only of violent attacks but of all the smaller humiliations that go with being part of a minority community." 

Jamaatul Ahrar had also claimed responsibility for last year's twin suicide bombings at churches in Lahore's Youhanabad area, which killed at least 15 people. Eight-two were killed by another Pakistani Taliban sub-group in a similar suicide bombing in September 2013 at All Saints Church, Peshawar.

The aim of the Pakistani Taliban and other jihadist groups is to enforce shari‘a and Islamic government on Pakistan. Christians are a despised minority in Pakistan, and very vulnerable under the so-called “blasphemy law” which gives a mandatory death sentence for criticism of Muhammad. Christians have suffered particularly from false accusations by Muslims, as judges tend to give the testimony of a Christian in court less weight than that of a Muslim witness (a bias which is in line with shari‘a). Liberal Muslims who have spoken up for Christians have also been targeted. In fact, the Easter bombing comes less than four weeks after the execution of Mumtaz Qadri who murdered Lahore’s Punjab governor Salman Taseer precisely because he had taken up the case of Christians such as Aasia Bibi accused under Pakistan’s blasphemy law.

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