(Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
A Pakistani bishop has claimed that the United State's drone strike campaign against the Taliban has inflamed the relationship between Islamists and Pakistan's Christians by drawing the minority religious community "into global politics."
Bishop Joseph Coutts of Karachi asserted that in the terrorists' perception, "The whole West — Europe or America — are all Christians."
"The perception is that if they attack the Christians, Americans will stop the drone attacks," Coutts told The National Catholic Register.
Coutts believes that the suicide bombers responsible for the Sept. 22 attack at All Saints Church in Peshawar that killed 122 people were retaliating against the U.S. military's lethal drone strikes in the region.
"Unless the Americans stop the drone attacks…they will continue to attack more churches," said Coutts.
Pakistani Christians, who make up less than three percent of the country's 180 million population, have seen their political leaders assassinated and the country's blasphemy laws used to silence them in recent years.
"According to our constitution, we have religious freedom and if you come to Pakistan, you will see many churches," said Coutts.
But, the rule of law has shown to be largely ineffective at protecting minorities against violence.
"In recent years, we have been facing and experiencing intolerance to such an extent that it has reached the point we are being attacked."
One of the reasons for the festering violence has been Pakistan's ongoing war against the Taliban, a conflict spanning from Pakistan to across the border into Afghanistan. The Taliban's political influence started in 1979 when the former U.S.S.R. invaded Afghanistan, said Coutts, and the end result was that "we have our own brand of Taliban, the Pakistani Taliban."
Coutts said that the ultimate goal of the Pakistani Taliban is "make Pakistan a purely Islamic state."
While Islamist extremists and the Taliban's actions do not reflect the overall attitude and beliefs of the country's millions of Muslims, their violent strategies are effective at helping the group wield power, both by manipulating politicans and by terrifying the population.
"They use the methods of violence and even suicide bombing, a new phenomenon in Pakistan," said Coutts. "They do not believe in democracy. They want an Islamic state. They want all Islamic laws."
Ultimately, the extremists are a force that all of Pakistani society will have to reckon with.
"[Islamist extremists and the Taliban are] strong enough to challenge the government. They are a threat to the whole of society, not just the Christians," said Coutts.