03/29/2011, 00.00
PAKISTAN

Third church attacked as Pakistani extremists declare war over Florida Koran burning

Jibran Khan
Yesterday afternoon, an armed group attacked the Catholic Church of St. Thomas in the military district of Wah, 45 km from Islamabad. The fundamentalists hurled stones and tried to burn the building. Bishop of the capital, we are Pakistani Christians, we have no ties with the United States. Young Christians: no hope for the future.

Islamabad (AsiaNews) - An armed group of seven people attacked the Catholic Church of St. Thomas in the military district of Wah, about 45 km from Islamabad. The attack took place at 6.30 pm yesterday, while the security guard was absent. The extremists hurled stones, damaged the building and tried to set fire to it, but they did not shoot. Yesterday's was the third attack against a church in Pakistan less than a week. The escalation of violence is a result of the mad act - repeatedly condemned by Christians in Pakistan and India – of pastor Wayne Sapp, who last March 20, in Florida burned a copy of the Koran under the supervision of the evangelical preacher Terry Jones.

The caretaker of the church of St. Thomas confirmed that the attack occurred yesterday, at about 6.30 pm, taking advantage of the absence of the security guard. A group of six or seven armed men broke through a small door and started throwing stones at the windows, smashing the small lamps and tried to break the door. The caretaker called the priest and the police, he is currently still in shock and does not intend to make statements.

The extremists were armed, but did not open fire. Unable to break down the door, they tried to set it on fire. The parish priest, Fr Yousaf, rushed to the scene of the attack and tried to reassure the small Christian community. "It's a reaction - the priest told AsiaNews -  to the desecration of the Koran in Florida, although the Catholic community has condemned the act. We pointed out clearly that we have no link with the Americans. At the time of the attack there were no guards, the police are present only on Sundays. "

Pastor Tariq Emmanuel, who lives near the church, added that the assailants did not open fire "because it is a high security area" and the military would have reacted immediately in the event of gunfire. "The forces of order – he adds - have asked to install closed circuit security cameras and private guards of the Christian faith", the only available. Christians now "no longer believe the promises of protection" of the police, especially after the murder of Salman Taseer and Shahbaz Bhatti.

Msgr. Anthony Rufin, Bishop of Islamabad / Rawalpindi, strongly condemns the latest attack on the Christian community of Pakistan and once again distances the church from the burning of the Koran in the United States. "We have already explained – says the prelate - we are Pakistani Christians, not Americans. We have repeatedly reiterated that we should not be equated to the Americans. " He adds that the police "have started to investigate”, but in the past the parish "had not received threats of any kind. "

The bishop of Islamabad points the finger at what he calls the "most troubling" part of the story. "The church of St. Thomas – he points out - is located near a high security zone, which is the only ammunition dump located in Pakistan, and as a result reinforced area. In addition, there are 4 barriers at the entrances of the military district of Wah, which means the assailants did not come from outside. " The prelate calls to take urgent action and anticipates the intention to arrange a meeting with Christian leaders, from the Anglican Church and other Protestant denominations to examine the current situation "of minorities. The young Pakistani Christians, in fact, do not see any reason for hope in the future.
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Mazar-i-Sharif, UN attacked: 20 dead. Links to the Florida Koran burning
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Pakistani Minister calls on Interpol and the Pope to condemn Florida Koran burning
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Christians in India and Pakistan condemn "pure madness" of Koran burned in Florida
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