03/18/2015, 00.00
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Attacks in Lahore, Christian religious leaders invite the community to peace and forgiveness

by Jibran Khan
A priest promises full cooperation in the investigation related to the lynching and murder of a suspect in the attacks on the churches of Youhanabad. A court denies bail to a group of Christian demonstrators, accused of damaging public property. Lawyer for those arrested: "It was a peaceful protest, abuse of police power".


Islamabad (AsiaNews) - "We call on all Christians who are demonstrating in these days in Pakistan to protest in a peaceful manner, and to show patience, courage and forgiveness", appeals

Fr. Nisar Javed, of the Diocese of Lahore, hit March 15 by the suicide attacks on two churches in the Christian majority Youhanabad neighborhood. The funeral of the victims was held yesterday.

Meanwhile, this morning, the chief minister of Punjab met some Catholic and Protestant religious leaders, saying: "The whole nation is saddened by the Youhababad tragedy. I ask the country to be patient in the war against terrorism." In expressing his condolences, the politician also criticized the violent reaction of the Christian community.

After the attack, which caused 17 deaths (including some Muslims) and more than 70 injured, a group of people turned  violent and a suspect was lynched, and then burned alive. The local Christian leadership condemned this act immediately. "We are sad at the lynching - emphasizes Fr. Javed - as this has complicated the matters. We assure that we will cooperate and we stand with the giving families. We urge all the protestors across Pakistan to protest peacefully and display patience, courage and forgiveness".

Meanwhile, a court in Islamabad has denied bail to over 25 Christians arrested on March 15 in Iqbal for damaging vehicles and public property during a protest against the attack. According to the police, to curb the "fury" of the protesters they had to use tear gas and water cannons. However Vinod Sunil, one of those arrested, tells a different version: "We did not break anything, we were protesting peacefully. We blocked the highway, the police came and arrested us."

The Masihi Foundation will help in the defense of the arrested protesters. The humanitarian organization is committed to supporting the defense and development of the weaker sections of Pakistani society, particularly minorities. Sajjad Khan, the organization's lawyer, said: "We have submitted the application for bail two days ago. These young people blocked the highway for two hours. They were protesting peacefully and did not damage anything. Everyone has the right to express their pain: an arrest for protesting peacefully is an abuse of police power. "

Police in Islamabad refused to comment on the incident.

Some Islamic leaders have condemned the bombings in Youhanabad and expressed solidarity with the Christian community. Today Sri Lanka expressed its condolences to the Pakistani religious minority. "As a country - said the Foreign Minister - who has lived the scourge of terrorism for nearly 30 years, we share the pain and suffering of the people of Pakistan." The Christian community in Sri Lanka "offers its prayers for a quick recovery of the wounded and the pain of victim's families ".

(Melani Manel Perera collaborated)


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