Pakistani Christians to Protest Easter Bombing: Gov't Must Crack Down on Islamic Extremism; Reform Education System
The British Pakistani Christian Association, one of the groups helping victims of the Easter suicide bombing in Lahore, Pakistan, are organizing a protest in London calling on world governments to stand up for religious minorities and protect innocent lives.
"The horrors of the Easter massacre, deliberately targeting children enjoying the high-point of the Easter celebrations, have shocked the globe," wrote Wilson Chowdhry, BPCA chairman.
"Jesus resurrection from the tomb will be a focus of this event and will be prayerfully reflected upon. We will also have speakers from various religious backgrounds calling for the unity of mankind against oppressors," he added.
The protest is scheduled to take place on Saturday, April 2, at Pakistan's High Commission in London, and is being arranged in conjunction with other social justice activists.
On Wednesday, Pakistan's army said that it had detained at least 216 people in connection to the Easter Sunday bomb attack, carried out at the Gushan-e-Iqbal Park in Lahore, where 73 people were killed, mostly women and children. Radical Islamic group Jamaat-ul-Ahrar took responsibility for the attack, explaining that it had specifically targeted Christians.
Chowdhry shared with The Christian Post information from the BPCA that identified 36 of the fatalities as Christians.
A number of the victims continue to receive treatment at the Lahore General Hospital, while the organization, which reports on Christian persecution in Pakistan, has set up a donations page for people wishing to help the victims and their families.
"Our donations will help secure medical supplies and pay for hospital treatments, pay for funeral costs and help with the long term rehabilitation and trauma counselling of victims," the BPCA explains.
A petition to the governments of India, Britain, the U.S., and other Western nations has also been set up, urging them to recognize that the persecution against Christians in Pakistan is "now reaching genocidal levels."
"We call on the Pakistani Government to clamp down on extremists in their country. Those involved in this latest bomb attack must be caught and brought to justice. Moreover each family affected by this attack should be compensated that they may try to rebuild their shattered lives," the petition states.
"We call on the Pakistani Government to remove discrimination and persecution of minorities from the context of their laws and constitution and to introduce a new national curriculum that no longer demonizes or caricatures Pakistani Christians," it adds.
In an interview with BBC News following the attack, Chowdhry said that there is "no explanation" for such targeting of Christians and such targeting of children, other than a "hatred for minorities."
He also called for the Pakistani government to revise school curriculum that portrays Christians in a negative light, arguing that Muslim children are taught to look down upon their Christian peers.
Several persecution watchdog groups have also spoken out on the massacre, with International Christian Concern regional manager for South Asia, William Stark, warning that Christains are seen as "convenient targets" for Pakistani terrorists.
"Not only are they poorly protected by Pakistan's security forces, they are also seen as an extension of the West in Pakistan. Following the bombings of All Saints Church in 2013, Pakistan's Supreme Court wrote a suo moto opinion that demanded the Pakistani government take steps to secure both Christians and their places of worship," Stark said.
"Many of the reforms detailed in that opinion have yet to be enacted. Because of this inability or unwillingness to protect the Christian minority, Christians in Pakistan have suffered two more major assaults by the country's terrorist networks. First in 2015 when two churches were attacked in Youhanabad and yesterday with the bombing at Gulshan e-Iqbal Park," he added, urging Pakistan to take stronger steps to secure Christian minorities.