03/20/2015, 00.00
PAKISTAN
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Lahore attacks: Muslims demand protection for Christian churches

by Shafique Khokhar
Members of both communities, along with social activists, take part in a peaceful demonstration. The police has to arrest 18 people for the lynching of two Muslims. For a Muslim cleric, "Christians are not only a religious minority in this country, but are our brothers."

Faisalabad (AsiaNews) - Church attacks in Youhanabad "have made Pakistan's Christian community feel more vulnerable. The lynching of two people by [members of] the minority in reaction to the attack shows that people are tired of the current situation and have no confidence in public institutions, since they never provide justice for minorities," said Mohammad Hanif, a Muslim and district coordinator for the South Asia Partnership-Pakistan (SAP-PK) in Pakpattan, who spoke to AsiaNews.

He, along with 300 other people (social activists and members of both communities), took part in yesterday's peaceful demonstration against the attacks in Lahore.

This morning, Lahore police was told it had 48 hours to arrest 18 people involved in Sunday's lynching of two innocent Muslim bystanders following the bombings in Youhanabad. Security forces identified the people through videos of the incident.

With Christian and Islamic religious leaders among the participants, the march set off from the Pakpattan Press Club towards the District Police.

 Once there, a delegation of ten people met with laws enforcement officials and expressed their concerns about the attitude of the police towards minorities, insisting on the need to provide adequate security to churches and other Christian places of worship.

A police official apologised for police behaviour and offered full cooperation with minorities. "It is my task," he said, "that you are treated as equal citizens."

At the end of the meeting, the demonstration ended. However, the Youhanabad attacks rekindled old wounds.

For Michelle Chaudhry, president of the Cecil Chaudhry & Iris Foundation (CICF), "Here, we are once again preparing for mass burial with the memory of the Peshawar Church attacks still fresh in our minds".

"This is beyond condemnation," she said. "It is the responsibility of both Federal and Provincial Governments to protect all citizens regardless of their religion; religious minority communities and their places of worship across Pakistan must be safeguarded".

Mufti Muhammad Usman, Islamic religious leader and member of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Samiul Haq (JUI-S), agrees. "It is the responsibility of the State to provide protection to the country's religious sites," he said.

"The government has failed to protect Pakistan's minorities. Christians are not only a religious minority in this country, but are our brothers, part of the state, like Muslims."

"According to Islam," he explained, "it is our responsibility to protect their lives and their property from all forms of terrorism."

For Usman, "The verbal condemnation by our government of the attacks in Youhanabad is not enough. We need concrete actions. Terrorism is a national issue and we must be united and fight against these inhumane terrorists."

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