Faisalabad (AsiaNews) - The number of people killed in yesterday's twin attacks against Christian churches in Youhanabad, Lahore, has risen to 17. This morning Khushi Masih and Barkat Masih died in hospital from the wounds they sustained in the blasts.
The number of Christian martyrs now stands at 13, including a woman and a 12-year-old boy. Akash Masih, 15, is among those who stopped one bomber from entering the St John Catholic Church, by blocking him with his body.
The four Muslim victims are Abdul Majeed, a police officer; Sadiq and Irshad Muhammad (father and son), owners of a shop in front of the Anglican church; and Muhammad Ramzan, a driver. Sadiq is the one who prevented the second terrorist from entering Christ Church.
Today, demonstrations against the attacks continue across Pakistan. In Lahore, Christians organised a procession through the streets of the Punjab capital. The situation became tense after a car driven by Mariam Safdar, a teacher, was involved in an accident with some participants: two people were killed and six injured.
The Association of Women for Awareness and Motivation (AWAM), Peace and Human Development (PHD) and the REAT Human Rights Defenders Network organised another protest this morning in Faisalabad (Punjab).
During the rally, participants called on the authorities to protect Christian settlements, property and places of worship, as well as stop religious extremism and terrorism by putting into action the National Action Plan on Counter Terrorism.
Mgr Joseph Arshad, bishop of Faisalabad, who took part in the event, told AsiaNews, "The government must increase its efforts to protect the most vulnerable sections of society and provide them with legislative, administrative, and institutional support, as well as the infrastructure needed to lead a life free of terror."
According to eyewitness accounts, the three security guards on duty at the Catholic Church were watching a cricket match at a nearby hotel, Fr Bonnie Mendes, of the diocese of Faisalabad, told AsiaNews.
"The government," he said, "told Church authorities to build higher walls [around their compounds], add barbed wire and install CCTV cameras. For a poor Church like that of Pakistan, these are huge expenses."
"Churches," said the clergyman, "must pay themselves the security." The net effect has bene that "Many Christians have left the country in search of asylum."
"The government claims that the situation is peaceful and that it is protecting Christians; if this were the case, we would not have to protect ourselves. The Lahore attack shows that the authorities' claims are false. "
According to PHD Foundation director Suneel Malik, "the provincial and federal governments should set up a specially trained police force to protect non-Muslim settlements and places of worship from terrorist attacks."