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Assemblies of God pastor: “There is no security, our non-Christian neighbours insult us almost daily, and we are scared.”
The pastor of an Assemblies of God church in Lahore explained that the Christian community is being threatened. Members of the church he leads died and others are now scared of going to the temple.
"We went out to celebrate Easter. We are a young church, the majority of those coming are families with children and young couples. After the service they usually go to a park near our church so that the children can play. We are very united. It was a tragedy", he told the Spanish media La Información.
“There is no security, our non-Christian neighbours insult us almost daily, and we are scared”, he added.
Nonetheless, the pastor is preparing a service to honour the church members who died. He hopes the church will be full of people saying the last goodbye to the deceased in Lahore.
FEAR AND INSECURITY
"Terrorists were not so focused on our community in the past. Now all their attention is on us," said Rev Irshad Ashnaz, the vicar of Christ Church.
"These people are roaming around freely and no one is stopping them, it is very fearful living in your own country ... when you are attacked by fanatics in your own home", he added.
“The government has proved it cannot keep people safe so the army should take over security", pastor Shakil Anjum of the Children's Chapel added. "They have strengthened security at our churches but now terrorists are coming to public spaces to kill us."
A Christian at the site of the attack, Amanat Masih, said he had brought his three children and two nephews to the Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park to celebrate Easter. He lost two sons and a nephew in the attack.
“We were just here to enjoy the weather and have a good evening. What kind of people target innocent people and little children in a park?”
MORE THAN 5,000 ARRESTED
Pakistan arrested more than 5,000 suspects since the Lahore bombing on Sunday. Most of them have been released, but 216 suspects are still in custody, Punjab minister Rana Sanaullah confirmed.
Military and government officials on Monday said that the army was preparing to launch a new paramilitary counter-terrorism crackdown in Punjab, as it did more than two years ago in the violent southern city of Karachi.
According to Sanaullah, at least 160 raids have been carried out by the police, counter-terrorism and intelligence agents.
PAKISTANI MEDIA THREATENED
The Taliban faction responsible for the bombing, Jamaat-ur-Ahrar, warned the Pakistani media they could be the next target.
"Everyone will get their turn in this war, especially the slave Pakistani media", Ehsanullah Ehsan, spokesman for the group, tweeted. "We are just waiting for the appropriate time."
CONTINUOUS JIHADIST VIOLENCE IN PAKISTAN
Jamaat ur-Ahrar declared loyalty to the Islamic State and has close connections with Daesh. According to Open Doors, these jihadist groups are radicalising Muslims and increasing pressure on Christians in many countries.
The Taliban group also claimed responsibility for the attacks carried out in several Pakistani churches last year, and other attacks to Christian business. They have also pressured judges and authorities in trials like Asia Bibi's death penalty.
NUMBER 6 IN WORLD WATCH LIST
Pakistan is on number 6 in the 2016 World Watch List, a report by Open Doors which analyses persecution of Christians. It is the only country getting the maximum score on violence, together with Nigeria.
“The situation in Pakistan has become so tight that the very meeting of people is seen as suspicious, including Christians”, Open Doors warned.
“In Pakistan the level of pressure is high in all spheres of life. Persecution often does not come from the state, but from radical Islamic groups as well as from family, friends and neighbours”, it explained.
AN ISLAMIC STATE FOR PAKISTAN?
On Sunday, about 25,000 Islamist activists marched towards the federal capital, Islamabad, where they went on a rampage, storming police barricades and setting government vehicles and private property on fire.
According to Morning Star News, the protesters casked the the government to immediately execute Noreen, whose appeal against the blasphemy conviction is pending in the Supreme Court.
They also demanded that the government execute all Christians facing blasphemy charges, impose sharia (Islamic law) in Pakistan, officially declare Mumtaz Qadri a Shaheed (martyr), taking responsibility for his “illegal execution” (he was a police bodyguard assigned to Salmaan Taseer, Noreen´s lawyer, and murdered him in broad daylight), and force the minority Ahmadi Muslim community (considered infidels by majority Muslims) to go into exile.